Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Causes, Risk Factors, And Prevention 

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Causes, Risk Factors, And Prevention 

19 Dec 2022 | 5 min Read

Sudeshna Chakravarti

Author | 278 Articles

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) refers to an unexplained and unexpected death of an infant, aged less than a year old. The cause of death in the infant may remain unclear even after a complete investigation. This may include an autopsy or reviewing the complete medical history of the infant.

SIDS, also known as crib death, usually occurs while a baby is asleep. While this condition is rare, it is considered the most common cause of death in children aged between one month and one year. 

Read on to learn more details about SIDS, including its possible causes, symptoms, and prevention methods. 

What Causes SIDS?

What Causes SIDS?
While there is no known cause behind SIDS, experts have deduced certain theories that are linked to this event / Image credit: Freepik

While the exact cause of SIDS remains unknown, experts have a number of theories linked to this condition. A growing body of research suggests that infants who pass away due to SIDS have defects or brain abnormalities since birth. These abnormalities are often found in the parts of the brain that control the following functions:

  • Blood pressure
  • Breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Waking up from sleep

Experts believe that in addition to brain defects, there are some other events that may cause infants to pass away from SIDS. They describe this using a triple-risk model, where three factors lead to the unexpected death of an infant. These three factors include:

  • An at-risk infant: This includes an infant that may have an underlying problem, such as an undiagnosed brain defect or genetic change.
  • Body’s inability to regulate itself: In the first six months of their life, infants experience multiple quick phases of growth, which may change how well their body regulates itself.
  • Environmental stressors: Examples of this factor include being placed on the stomach for sleeping, overheating, or being exposed to cigarette smoke.  

For a diagnosis of SIDS, all three of these factors have to occur. A child may overcome any environmental stressors and survive, but if they have an undiagnosed health problem, along with their body systems undergoing a change, then they may not be able to handle such stressors. 

Common Risk Factors for SIDS

-No single factor puts an infant at a greater risk of SIDS. Rather, there are a combination of risk factors that may lead to SIDS. Data about this condition include:

  • The majority of SIDS deaths occur in infants aged between 2-4 months.
  • More boy babies may pass away due to SIDS as compared to girls.

Other possible factors for SIDS include

  • Drinking, smoking, or using drugs during pregnancy
  • Premature baby
  • A baby born with low weight
  • A family history of SIDS
  • The infant is exposed to tobacco smoke
  • Overheating

How to Prevent SIDS

How to Prevent SIDS
Make sure that your child has a safe sleeping space and there are no harmful objects around them / Image credit: Freepik

Creating a safe sleeping environment is crucial for preventing SIDS. We have discussed some precautionary measures to avoid SIDS in babies up to one-year-old.

Put Your Baby to Sleep on Their Back

Babies who sleep on their backs are at less risk of SIDS as compared to infants who sleep on their stomachs or on their sides. If your baby rolls on their stomach occasionally while sleeping, then you don’t need to move them onto their back. Just ensure that there are no items surrounding your little one that they could possibly roll into and block airflow.

Place Your Baby on a Firm Sleep Surface

Your baby’s bassinet and crib should meet all the safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. To ensure safety, you should opt for a firm mattress with a tight-fitting surface, as well as a fitted sheet designed for the specific product. 

Share a Room with Your Baby

Ideally, an infant should sleep in the same room as their parents for at least the first six months of their life, or until they turn a year old. Place your baby’s bassinet or crib close to your bed, so that you can check on them occasionally throughout the night.

Keep Objects Out of Your Baby’s Crib

Keep Objects Out of Your Baby’s Crib
Keep heavy objects like toys and blankets away from your baby’s bed while they are sleeping / Image credit: Freepik

Soft objects, loose bedding, or any other item that could increase the risk of strangulation, suffocation, or entrapment should be kept away from your baby’s sleeping place. This also includes:

  • Heavy blankets
  • Bumper pads
  • Toys

Use Pacifiers at Bedtime and Naps

Using pacifiers at bedtime and naps can help reduce the risk of SIDS, even if it falls out while your little one is sleeping. If you are breastfeeding, wait until your baby is done nursing before giving them the pacifier. If the pacifier falls while they are asleep, you don’t necessarily have to put it back.

Support for Families Affected by SIDS

Dealing with an infant loss due to SIDS can be the most devastating thing a parent or family can go through. If you or a family you know has been affected by SIDS, then we encourage you to reach out to support groups for comfort and guidance. You can also consider enrolling in a support group to raise awareness about SIDS and educate parents about its precautionary measures.

Conclusion

It can be distressing to read or discuss sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but there are steps that you can take to ensure your little one’s safety and reduce the risk of this condition. If you have any concerns about your baby’s health or need proper guidance on your little one’s sleeping arrangements, speak with your paediatriacian or healthcare provider. 

Cover Image Credit: Freepik.com

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