A baby sleeping in a white wooden crib.
Some environmental factors might put a baby at risk of SIDS, such as the child sleeping on their stomach.

What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Losing a baby is an awful experience to go through. About 1 in 1,000 babies die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) every year in the U.S. What is sudden infant death syndrome? This syndrome is defined as the sudden and unexplained death of what appeared to be a healthy baby. Sometimes called crib death, this can inevitably be a traumatic experience for parents.

In this article, we are going to explore the causes and risk factors, as well as preventative measures so that you and your family don’t have to go through this undeniably heart-wrenching experience.

What Causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

The exact cause of SIDS isn’t known, yet experts believe that a variety of factors may contribute to it. These include:

Physical Factors

Sometimes, physical abnormalities may go undetected. For example, brain defects and respiratory infections have been thought to contribute to SIDS. In terms of brain defects, experts believe that the part of the brain responsible for regulating breathing may not be fully developed in some infants who experience SIDS. Low birth rates or premature births may further increase this risk factor.

Environmental Factors

Sleeping environments can also lead to SIDS. Many times, this and a combination of physical factors, cause infant death syndrome. This is also why having babies sleep on their stomachs is not recommended nor is it recommended to sleep in the same bed as your baby. Other factors that may contribute to SIDS include overheating and sleeping on soft surfaces.

Other Risk Factors

Other risk factors for SIDS may include:

  • Sex. Boys are more likely than girls to die from SIDS.
  • Age. Babies are more likely to die from SIDS between 2 to 4 months of age.
  • Race. Non-Caucasian babies are more likely to die from SIDS.
  • Family history. If a relative died from SIDS, this increases the risk.
  • Smoking. If the mother smokes or drinks during pregnancy, the baby is more likely to die from SIDS. Additionally, babies are more likely to die from SIDS if they are exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Being born premature. Babies born early or with a low birth weight are more likely to die from SIDS.

Prevention of SIDS

Unfortunately, there is no way to entirely prevent SIDS. However, there are ways to reduce the risk and potentially prevent it, including:

1. Placing Your Baby on Their Back

It’s recommended to put your baby to bed on their back, as opposed to their side or stomach. It’s also important to let babysitters or other caregivers know to do this as well.

2. Keep Toys Out of the Crib

Ideally, you want the bare minimum in your baby’s crib. Make sure the crib also has a relatively firm mattress. You want to avoid putting pillows, big blankets, or toys in the crib as this can lead to breathing issues.

3. Make Sure They Aren’t Overheated

Avoid putting too many layers on your baby as they sleep. Overheating is a risk factor of SIDS. Additionally, make sure to not cover your baby’s head as they sleep and avoid bundling them up excessively.

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4. Sleep in the Same Room

While your baby should have a separate sleep area, such as a crib, sleeping in the same room can ensure you keep an eye on them, as you can be close by if anything happens or they wake up.

5. Use a Pacifier at Bedtime

A pacifier may reduce the risk of SIDS, but don’t force your baby to take it. Offer it to them, and if they want it, then great. If not, leave it.

6. Breastfeed, If Possible

Breastfeeding for at least six months has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. There are also many other benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby. At the same time, don’t stress if breastfeeding isn’t working for you and your baby. It’s all about doing the best you can.

7. Make Sure Your Baby Stays Up to Date With Immunizations

Ensure your child gets all their necessary immunizations when the time is right. It’s also been shown that infants who received all immunizations had a lower risk of SIDS.

Coping With Loss

Losing a baby to SIDS is a very emotional experience. Seeking out proper support is of the utmost importance, such as joining a support group where you can talk to other parents who are going through similar situations. Talking with a counselor can also offer a way to help you cope and navigate grief.

Additionally, make sure you give yourself time. Grief is different for everyone. It will take time to feel like you again.

Implement Preventative Measures

At the end of the day, prevention is best when it comes to SIDS. Make sure you know the preventative measures above so that you can take care of your child in the best way possible and avoid SIDS from happening to your children or family.