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What We Know About SIDS

October 23, 2017

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, often referred to as “SIDS,” is defined by the National Institute of Health as “the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year of age that doesn’t have a known cause even after a complete investigation.” It is the number one cause of death for babies between one month and one year of age, although ninety-percent of SIDS deaths occur before the age of 6 months. Since 1994 the incidence of SIDS has reduced dramatically as parents became educated about safe sleep habits, and while identifying the underlying cause or causes of SIDS remains an ongoing endeavor, medical professionals and researchers are dedicated to identifying risk factors and sharing ways to reduce the risk of SIDS.

What is considered SIDS?

SIDS falls under the umbrella term SUIDS, which stands for “Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome.” This category also includes accidents and illnesses, which are considered unexpected yet include an identifiable factor. SIDS is not:

  • Suffocation, choking, or vomit-related deaths
  • Caused by vaccines, immunizations, or shots
  • Contagious
  • The result of neglect or child abuse
  • Caused by cribs
  • Completely preventable, but there are ways to reduce the risk
Can SIDS be prevented?

Because the cause is unknown, there is no way to prevent SIDS. If a cause and effect scenario were discovered, it would be easier to stop the cause to prevent the effect, but at this time researchers are still working hard to identify a possible cause. There are, however, risk factors that can put babies at a higher risk for SIDS. These include:

  • Putting a baby to sleep on his/her stomach, especially after they’ve already slept on their backs.
  • Sleeping on a soft surface, such as an adult mattress, pillow, or blanket.
  • Getting too hot while sleeping.
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke while in the womb or after birth.
  • Sleeps in a bed with a parent, child, or pet.

In addition to avoiding these risk factors, there are also ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, which include:

  • Always putting baby to sleep on their backs
  • Breastfeed your baby
  • Put baby to sleep on a firm surface with only a fitted blanket (i.e. swaddle or sleep sack)
  • Do not put any loose items in the crib or sleeping area, including blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals. Consider using a sleep sack or swaddle if you’re concerned about the baby staying warm while sleeping.
  • Room share, not bed share, for the first 6 months, preferable until 1 year old
  • Do not let baby be around smoking
  • Give baby a pacifier when sleeping
  • Avoid overheating

For more information about SIDS, check out the Safe to Sleep website from the National Institute of Health.

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Avatar for Angela Silva

Angela Silva

Angela graduated with her B.S. in Exercise and Wellness and is a NASM certified personal trainer who specializes in postpartum fitness and recovery. She enjoys writing, cracking jokes, and spending time with her family, preferably while fishing. She shares many of her life adventures on Instagram as @angelagrams

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