How to Fight SIDS
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) — the abrupt, unexpected death of a baby less than a year old — is the number 1 killer of American children between ages 1 month and 1 year.
The exact cause of SIDS remains unknown. Most babies who die of SIDS have no symptoms, and an autopsy shows no cause of death. But studies have pinpointed risk factors, and learning about them could help you prevent a tragedy.
New Research, New Risks
In the mid-1990s, researchers learned that putting babies to sleep on their stomachs more than doubled their risk of dying from SIDS. An educational campaign that began in 1994 urged caregivers to put babies to sleep on their backs. In the next decade, the U.S. SIDS rate fell by half.
Other behaviors that lead to a higher risk for SIDS include:
- Sharing a bed with an adult
- Sleeping on an adult mattress
- Sleeping on soft bedding
- Exposure to cigarette smoke
The chances of SIDS climb even higher when these actions involve babies who are male, premature or born to a mother who drank alcohol, used drugs or smoked while pregnant.
Other research has shown that most SIDS deaths take place between the ages of 2 and 4 months.
Controllable Risk Factors
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American SIDS Institute recommend parents and parents-to-be follow these practices to reduce a baby's SIDS risk:
- Lower your risk of giving birth prematurely. Get medical care right away when you learn you're pregnant. See your doctor as recommended while expecting.
- Don't smoke, drink or use illegal drugs while pregnant.
- Always put your baby to sleep on his or her back in a baby bed with a firm mattress. Don't add covers, bumpers, toys or pillows.
- Don't let anyone smoke near your baby – not even in the same house.
- Don't put your baby to sleep wearing clothing that could cause overheating.
- Contact your pediatrician at once if your baby sometimes goes limp, stops breathing or gags excessively.
- Make sure everyone who takes care of your baby follows safe guidelines for putting the infant to sleep.
About one in five SIDS deaths takes place while someone other than a parent is caring for the baby. These deaths often occur because the caregiver places the baby on his or her tummy to sleep. When infants who are used to sleeping on their backs are put to sleep on their tummies, their risk for SIDS increases 18-fold.
SIDS can't always be prevented – but by addressing the risk factors that you can change, you can lower the threat to your baby.
Sources: Krames Staywell, American Academy of Pediatrics, American SIDS Institute