Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. SIDS is sometimes
called crib death. This is because the death may happen when the baby is sleeping
in a
crib. SIDS is one of the leading causes of death in babies from ages 1 month to 1
year. It happens most often between 2 and 4 months old. SIDS and other types of
sleep-related infant deaths have similar risk factors.

Researchers don’t know the exact
cause of SIDS. Studies have shown that some babies who die from SIDS have the

  • Problems with
    brain functioning. Some babies have
    problems with the part of the brain that helps control breathing and waking during
    sleep. Babies born with problems in other parts of the brain or body may also be more
    likely to die from SIDS.
  • Differences in genes. Some genes and
    the environment may work together to increase the risk for SIDS.
  • Problems with
    heart functioning. Some studies found a link between heart
    function and SIDS.
  • Infection
    . Some babies who die from SIDS have respiratory
    infections before death. SIDS happens more often during the colder months, when
    respiratory illnesses are more common.

Most babies who die from SIDS and
other sleep-related deaths have one or more risk factors. Some risk factors can be
prevented. There are many risk factors for SIDS. They may include the following:

Risk factors for the mother

  • Being a young mother
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Late or no prenatal care
  • Not breastfeeding
  • Using alcohol or illegal drugs

Risk factors for the baby and the environment

  • Preterm birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Sleeping on the belly
  • Not breastfeeding
  • Not getting routine childhood shots
  • Being around cigarette smoke
  • Sleeping on a soft surface
  • Sleeping with loose blankets,
    pillows, or other objects
  • Sharing a bed with parents or
    siblings, especially in places where there is alcohol or drug use
  • Being too warm or overbundled

There are no symptoms or warning
signs of SIDS that can be used to prevent it.

The diagnosis of SIDS is made when
the cause of death is unexplained after a full investigation. An investigation

  • Examining the body after death
  • Examining where the death took
  • Reviewing the baby’s symptoms or
    illnesses before death
  • Any other related health history

There is no specific treatment for

There is no way to tell which
babies will die from SIDS. But known risk factors for SIDS and other sleep-related
deaths can be controlled by:

  • Getting prenatal care. Early and
    regular prenatal care can help reduce the risk for SIDS. You should also follow a
    healthy diet and not smoke or use drugs or alcohol while you are pregnant. These
    things may reduce the chance of having a premature or low-birth-weight baby.
    Premature or low-birth-weight babies are at higher risk for SIDS.
  • Putting babies on their back for sleep and
     Babies should be placed on their back for all sleeping until they are 1
    year old. Don’t lay your baby down on his or her side or belly for sleep or
  • Putting babies in other positions while
    they are awake. 
    Putting your baby in other positions helps your baby grow
    stronger. It also helps prevent your baby from having a misshaped head. When your
    baby is awake, hold your baby. Or give your baby time on his or her tummy as long
    there is an adult watching. Try not to let your baby sit in a seat or swing for long
    periods of time.
  • Using proper bedding. Your baby
    should sleep on a firm mattress or other firm surface covered by a fitted sheet.
    Don’t use fluffy blankets or comforters. Don’t let your baby sleep on a waterbed,
    sofa, sheepskin, pillow, or other soft material. Don’t put soft toys, pillows, or
    bumper pads in the crib while your baby is younger than 1 year old.
  • Not overheating. Keep your baby warm
    but not too warm. The temperature in your baby’s room should feel comfortable to you.
    Avoid overbundling, overdressing, or covering an infant’s face or head.
  • Sharing a room. The American Academy
    of Pediatrics advises that infants sleep close to the parent’s bed, but in a separate
    crib or bassinet for infants. This is advised ideally for the baby’s first year. But
    you should do this at least for the first 6 months.
  • Not sharing a bed. Don’t put your
    baby to sleep in a bed with other children. Don’t put your baby to sleep on a sofa,
    either alone or with another person. Don’t share your bed with your baby, especially
    if you are using alcohol or other drugs. You can bring your baby to your bed for
    feedings and comforting. But return your baby to the crib for sleep. Bed sharing is
    also not advised for twins or other multiples.
  • Not allowing smoking around your
    The risk of SIDS is higher for babies whose mothers smoked during
    pregnancy. Don’t smoke when you are pregnant and don’t let anyone smoke around your
    baby. Babies and young children exposed to smoke have more colds and other diseases.
    They also have a higher risk for SIDS.
  • Taking your baby for checkups and
     If your newborn baby seems sick, call your baby’s healthcare
    provider. Take your baby in for regular well-baby checkups and routine shots. Some
    studies show that fully vaccinating your child lowers the risk for SIDS. 
  • Breastfeeding your baby. Give your
    baby only your own milk for at least 6 months. This means no water, sugar water, or
    formula, unless your baby’s healthcare provider tells you to do so. This reduces the
    risk for SIDS and many other health problems.
  • Thinking about
    your baby a pacifier during sleep time. You may give your
    baby a pacifier during routine sleep and nap time once breastfeeding is
    well-established. This is often after the first few weeks. But don’t hang pacifiers
    around your baby’s neck. Don’t attach pacifiers to your baby’s clothing, stuffed
    toys, or other objects.
  • Not using positioning devices and home
    cardiorespiratory monitors.
    Don’t use wedges, positioners, or special
    mattresses to help decrease the risk for SIDS and sleep-related infant death. These
    devices have not been shown to prevent SIDS. In rare cases, they have resulted in
    infant death. Cardiorespiratory monitors sold for home use are also not helpful in
    preventing SIDS.
  • Always placing cribs, bassinets, and play yards in hazard-free
    Be sure there are no hanging cords, wires, or window curtains nearby.
    This reduces the risk for strangulation.

If you or someone else in your home
smokes, talk with your healthcare provider about quitting. If you have any questions
concerns about SIDS risk factors, talk with your baby’s healthcare provider.

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is
    the sudden and unexplained death of an infant younger than age 1. It is most common
    between 2 and 4 months old.
  • Researchers don’t know the exact
    causes of SIDS.
  • There is no way to tell which babies
    will die from SIDS.
  • Most babies who die of SIDS have 1 or more risk factors.
  • There are many possible risk factors. These include having the
    baby be around cigarette smoke, sleep on a soft surface, or co-sleep with parents
  • To lower the risk for SIDS, get
    regular prenatal care and breastfeed your baby. Don’t smoke during pregnancy.
  • To lower the risk for SIDS and other
    sleep-related deaths, your baby should sleep and take naps on his or her back. 
  • Your baby should sleep in the same
    room with you for at least the first 6 months. Place the baby close to your bed, but
    in a separate bed or crib for infants.