Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

By | November 2, 2013

Also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or crib death, infant cot death is one of the most common causes of infant death in the world even today. The tragic phenomenon of SIDS death usually strikes infants from 1 month to 1 year of age, although mostly within the second to fourth month while they sleep. While the thought of SIDS death is frightening as it is largely unexplainable because it could be caused by a number or combination of factors, the risk of SIDS is also avoidable if precautions are taken.

How Do SIDS Deaths Occur?

Infant cot death can cause the death of even a healthy baby which makes SIDS deaths almost impossible to predict. When a death occurs, it is only when illness, birth defects, parental negligence, and genetic disorder have been ruled out as a cause that it will be ascribed to SIDS. Infants who have succumbed to SIDS deaths show no signs of suffering, but a true SIDS-related death could be due to a combination of factors.

Risk of SIDS

Studies show the following characteristics or features lead to higher risk of SIDS:

  • Babies between 2-4 months old are the most common victims, but the first six months have a high risk of SIDS
  • SIDS deaths are most frequent during colder months
  • African-American babies twice as likely to die of SIDS
  • Babies of Native American origin are three times as likely to die of SIDS
  • Male infants are more vulnerable to risk of SIDS than female infants
  • Addiction to or use of drugs, alcohol or nicotine during pregnancy
  • Inadequate prenatal care can increase the risk of SIDS
  • Teenage pregnancies and mothers under the age of 20
  • Premature or low weight babies are more susceptible to infant cot death
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke after birth can lead to SIDS death
  • Babies who are covered or overdressed could overheat while sleeping, leading to SIDS death
  • Babies who are put to sleep on their stomach or side could succumb to infant cot death as it hampers breathing

Parenting Tips for Preventing SIDS

  • Pregnancy care: During pregnancy, fetuses that are exposed to nicotine, alcohol, or drugs are more likely to succumb to SIDS deaths. Expectant mothers should ensure regular prenatal check-ups are performed at the right time.
  • New born infants: Breast feeding has lately shown to be effective in preventing SIDS. Ensure that babies are kept in smoke-free atmospheres.

Sleeping Habits to Reduce the Risk of SIDS:

  • Ensuring safe sleeping habits for babies is the most effective way to reduce risk of SIDS.
  • Use firm mattresses for babies to sleep on. Do not use water beds, beanbags, sofas or fleece and lambskin.
  • Avoid placing stuffed toys and pillows in the cribs or bassinets of infants.
  • The most important precaution against SIDS deaths is to place babies on their backs to sleep. This keeps airways and breathing patterns open and unobstructed. If babies have reflux problems or parents are worried they may choke on milk, vomit or other substances, it is best to talk to the family doctor.
  • Babies should be placed in a separate crib or bassinet to sleep, but if possible kept in the parents’ room so that you are always close at hand. This significantly reduces the risk of SIDS deaths.
  • Once babies can roll over both onto their sides and stomachs, it is acceptable to allow them to choose their own sleeping position. This is usually possible for babies during their 5-7 th months.
  • Keep the room in which the baby is sleeping at a pleasant temperature. A temperature that is comfortable for an adult in a short sleeved shirt is the right temperature for babies. This is usually around 16-20 degrees Celsius.
  • Babies do not need to be covered by blankets during the first 6 months, but if used, a blanket should be tucked under the mattress at the bottom of the bed so that it cannot move above the baby’s shoulders.
  • Studies show that pacifiers can help reduce the risk of SIDS. Babies who are comfortable using a pacifier can be laid to sleep with one in their mouths. There is no need to replace it if it falls out during sleep.

While all the precautions are important, also ensure that any caretakers or family members who may interact with the baby are aware of these guidelines to prevent SIDS. Keeping regular appointments for well baby check-ups are important as well.


  1. Preventing Cot Death – Baby and Pregnancy
  2. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – Kids Health
  3. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDC) – Mayo Clinic

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