SIDS is defined as “The sudden unexpected death of an infant, under one-year of age, with onset of the fatal episode apparently occurring during sleep, that remains unexplained after a thorough investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, and review of the circumstances of death and the clinical history”.
The key features of the definition are that the infant’s death is sudden and unexpected, and following a thorough investigation is unexplained. SIDS is the most common cause of death in infants between 1-month and 1-year of age. SIDS currently kills ~one out of every 2,000 live births.
SIDS is every parent’s worst nightmare. Research has shown that the risk of an infant dying from SIDS can be reduced by following a number of Safe Infant Sleep recommendations:
- Infants should sleep flat on their backs for every sleep.
- Use a firm sleep surface without blankets, quilts, sheepskin, etc.
- Room-sharing, but not bed sharing, is recommended.
- Keep objects and loose bedding out of the crib.
- Pregnant women should receive regular prenatal care.
- Avoid cigarette smoke exposure during and after pregnancy. Infants should never be exposed to cigarette smoke.
- Avoid alcohol and illicit drug use during and after pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding is recommended.
- Consider offering a pacifier at sleep, but do not persist if the infant refuses it.
- Avoid overheating. Do not overdress sleeping infants.
- Infants should receive regular immunizations on the normal schedule.
- Avoid commercial devices marketed to prevent SIDS,
While these Safe Infant Sleep recommendations will not prevent all SIDS, they will reduce your baby’s chance of dying from SIDS. SIDS appears to be a natural cause of death, and research suggests that abnormalities in brain-stem neurotransmitters are present in many SIDS babies.
October is SIDS Awareness Month. Please adhere to Safe Infant Sleep recommendations if you care for any infant, and help support those families who have had a baby die from SIDS.