What is the cause of SIDS?
Sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS or crib death, is defined as the sudden unexplained death of an infant between one month to one year of age despite a thorough investigation. This usually occurs while the infant is sleeping. The cause of SIDS is unknown, but some research suggests that there may be some underlying vulnerability, such as a genetic pattern or a subtle brain abnormality that affects the baby’s ability to control its breathing and waking from sleep. All other potential causes of death need to be ruled out before the diagnosis of SIDS.
How to Prevent SIDS
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between 1 month of age and 1 year of age. It is also the third-leading cause of death for infants up to 1 year of age.
So, how can parents reduce the risk of SIDS? It is important to create a safe sleep area for your child. While researchers and providers don’t know the exact cause of SIDS, we know that parents and other caregivers can help reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths.
- Always place your baby on their back for sleep.
- Use a firm and flat sleep surface, such as a mattress, in a safety-approved crib covered by a fitted sheet.
- Give your baby a pacifier for naps and bedtime. For breastfed infants, wait until breastfeeding is firmly established.
- Keep the baby’s crib in the same room where you sleep until the baby is at least 6 months to 1 year of age.
- Swaddle your baby until they are between 2-4 months old, or when they can rollover.
- Hold your baby in an upright position for burping for at least 20 min after each feeding before returning them to their crib.
- Don’t put soft bedding (pillows, blankets, bumper pads or toys) in the sleeping area.
- Don’t cover your baby’s head with pillows or anything else.
- Don’t allow your baby to sleep in your bed.
- Don’t allow your baby to sleep on couches and chairs alone.
- Don’t allow the routine use of strollers, car seats and swings for sleep.
- Don’t allow adults (including yourself) or other children to share a bed with the baby.
- Don’t allow your baby to fall asleep face down on anyone’s chest.
- Don’t allow your baby to get too hot (if they are sweating or their skin feels hot, they’re too hot).
- Don’t overdress or over-bundle your baby (this will help avoid overheating).
The Centers for Disease Control offers more tips on how to create a safe sleep environment.
Sleeping habits aren’t the only way to reduce the risk of SIDS. The CDC also recommends that mothers get regular prenatal care during pregnancy to reduce the risk of SIDS. You should avoid the consumption of drugs, alcohol or smoking during pregnancy. After the baby is born, don’t allow anyone to smoke around your baby. If you live with others who smoke, have them do so outside of the home. Breastfeeding also helps protect against SIDS.
If you have other questions and concerns about taking care of your newborn baby, consult your doctor.