What is sudden infant death syndrome? — Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is when a baby younger than 1 year old dies suddenly for no known reason. SIDS is sometimes called “crib death.”
SIDS happens when a baby is sleeping, usually between midnight and 6AM . Almost all babies who die from SIDS are younger than 6 months old.
What causes SIDS? — Doctors do not know what causes SIDS. But SIDS is more likely to happen when a baby:
●Sleeps on his or her stomach
●Sleeps on a soft surface or with pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals in the bed
●Sleeps in a bed with an adult or another child
●Is too warm or wears too many clothes when sleeping
●Is born to a mother who smokes
●Is born to a mother who is younger than 20 years old or who did not get medical care during pregnancy
●Is born too early or weighs less than normal at birth
Can SIDS be prevented? — No. SIDS cannot be prevented, and there is no test that can tell if it is going to happen. But there are things that parents can do to lower the chance that it will happen. To lower the chance of SIDS, do the following:
●Put your baby on his or her back to sleep. Do not let your baby sleep on his or her stomach or side.
●Put your baby to sleep in a crib, cradle, or bassinet in your bedroom. If you want your baby to sleep near you, use a bassinet that attaches to your bed. Do not have your baby sleep in your bed with you.
●Have your baby sleep on a firm surface, and not on a cushion, waterbed, sofa, or other soft surface. Do not put your baby to sleep in a car seat except in the car.
●Remove pillows, stuffed animals, and other soft objects from the sleeping area. Do not use bumper pads on the crib.
●Do not cover your baby’s head when he or she is sleeping.
●Do not dress your baby in too many clothes or keep the room too warm when he or she is sleeping.
●Stop smoking and do not let anyone smoke in the house or car.
●Breastfeed your baby.
Doctors do not recommend using devices or machines that check a baby’s breathing or heart rate during sleep. Studies have shown that these do not prevent SIDS.
How do doctors know if a death is from SIDS? — After a baby dies, doctors and other experts try to figure out the cause in a few different ways. They talk with the parents and look around the room where the baby died. They also might do an autopsy. An autopsy is an exam that is done after death.
If the doctors find no other cause of death, then they say that the baby died from SIDS.
Where can parents find help if SIDS happens? — Your doctor or nurse can tell you where to find help and support. It’s very important for parents to get help, because a baby’s death can be overwhelming. Parents can be in shock or feel anger, guilt, sadness, or fear.
Some people find it helpful to go to a support group for parents whose babies died from SIDS. There are support groups all over the world (table 1). Other people find it helpful to talk one-on-one with a mental health professional.
If your baby died from SIDS, your other babies have a slightly higher than normal chance of dying from SIDS. Talk with your doctor or nurse about things that you can do to lower the chance that it will happen again.