Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Causes, Early Signs & Prevention

A black and white photo of a baby and mother to show how the AAP released new guidelines on how to protect baby from SIDS.

Sudden infant death syndrome(SIDS) is the leading cause of death in children less than a year old. It is unexplainable and unpredictable. There is no known cause. However,  SIDS is often associated with a sleep period. Otherwise known as crib death or cot death, most cases happen inside of a cot or crib.

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How do I know If My Baby is At High Risk for SIDS?

There are no early signs of SIDS, but there are ways of knowing if your baby is at a higher risk. These reasons include if:

  1. They were exposed to tobacco smoke in the womb or in the home, car and general environment after they are born.
  2. They were born preterm i.e born before 37 weeks of gestation.
  3. They sleep on their stomachs.
  4. They usually sleep on their backs but are then placed on their stomachs for maybe a nap. The risk of SIDS becomes significantly higher with this action.
  5. They sleep on soft surfaces and bedding.
  6. They sleep in the same bed with parents, other siblings or pets.
Infants should sleep close to the parents' bed, in the parents' room, but on separate surfaces that are designed for babies. Sharing a room with the parents reduces the risk of SIDS by about 50%.

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In October 2016, the American Association Of Pediatrics released recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS. As a leading authority on pediatrics in the U.S, it important to follow their guidelines.

AAP Recommendations to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

The main points of their new article are:

  1. Babies should always be placed wholly on their backs for sleep. It applies to and is even more imperative for pre-term babies. This should be done until the baby is at least a year old.
  2. Babies should be placed on a firm sleep surface like a mattress in a crib. The surface should maintain its shape and not be indented in any way when the baby is placed on it.
  3. The sleeping surface should be covered by a fitted sheet. There should be no other bedding or soft objects like a blanket or pillow on the sleeping surface.
  4. Babies should not routinely sleep in car seats, strollers, infant carriers or infant slings. They should never be left unattended to when they’re in these devices and neither should they ever sleep on couches and armchairs.
  5. Mothers should breastfeed their infants exclusively or feed them with expressed breast milk for at least the first six months. This is because breastfeeding is associated with areduced risk of SIDS.
  6. Infants should sleep close to the parents’ bed, in the parents’ room, but on separate surfaces that are designed for babies. Sharing a room with the parents reduces the risk of SIDS by about 50%.
  7. Giving babies pacifiers at nap or sleep time is recommended. Though not clearly understood yet, studies report a protective effect of pacifiers against SIDS. If it falls out of the infant’s mouth while sleeping, there’s no need to reinsert it.
  8. Mothers should avoid exposure to smoke while they’re pregnant and protect their babies from it after birth. They should also avoid illicit drug use and alcohol before and after birth.

While there’s no way to know what causes sudden infant death syndrome, following these guidelines will significantly reduce the risk of SIDS and help keep your baby safe.

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