Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a sudden unexplained death of infants under one year of age. This usually occurs during sleep and hence the name crib death. The cause of SIDS is unknown although some researchers believe it is due to abnormalities in the portion of the infant’s brain that control breathing and arousal from sleep. All babies (healthy or sick) are at risk and certain sleep environment also increases your infant’s risk. It is important to remove blankets, pillows and toys from the crib to reduce the risk of SIDS. Also placing baby on the back to sleep and using a firm crib mattress may all help to prevent SIDS.
The main cause of SIDS is unknown although doctors believe it may be related to a combination of sleep environmental and physical factors.
Sleep environmental factors – A baby’s sleeping position, crib toys and a lot of physical factors can greatly increase the baby’s risk of SIDS. A baby may have difficulty breathing if place on their stomach or side to sleep than those placed on their back. Blankets, pillows, quilts and crib toys placed in a baby’s crib may cause suffocation if they are not kept away from the baby’s face. Also laying your baby on a soft fluffy surface can block the baby’s airways. The risk of SIDS is reduced in babies who sleep in the same room as their parents however, sleeping on the same bed as their parents is dangeruous because they are more exposed to a tremendous amount of soft surface which will in turn impair their breathing.
Physical factors – These include brain abnormalities, respiratory infections and low birth weight. In some babies the portion of the brain that controls arousal from sleep and breathing does not work properly and this makes them more susceptible to develop SIDS. Respiratory infection like colds may cause SIDS in infants due to difficulty breathing. Babies with low birth weight (eg multiple birth babies) and premature babies generally have brains that are not well developed to control breathing and heart rate and hence more likely to develop SIDS.
Cetain factors increases a baby’s risk of SIDS. SIDS is more likely to occur between ages 2-4 months although it could occur later (up to 1 year old). Boys are at increased risk of SIDS than girls. Other risk factors include:
- Baby sleepin on the stomach or side
- Baby sleeping on a soft bedding in the crib
- Race – Black, american indian or eskimo babys are more likely to develop SIDS
- Premature birth
- Multiple birth babies (twins and triplets)
- Family history of SIDS
- Inadequate prenatal care
- Alcohol or illegal drug use during pregnancy
- Smoking during pregnancy
- Short time periods betweeen pregnancies
- Babies born to teenage mothers
SIDS occur with no signs or symptoms. It happens when your baby is thought to be sleeping.
TEST AND DIAGNOSIS
An autopsy will not confirm the cause of death but may give additive knowledge about SIDS.
There is no sure way to prevent a baby from developing SIDS but some measures can be taken to reduce a baby’s risk. These include:
Placing baby on the back to sleep instead of on his side or stomach
Placing baby to sleep on a firm sleep surface
Keeping soft objects, toys and loose beddings out of the baby’s sleep area.
Keeping your baby’s room at a tempreture comfortable for adults and dressing them in light sleeping clothes to prevent overheating.
Offering your baby a pacifier at naptime and bedtime may reduce the risk of SIDS.
Avoid co-sleeping with your baby. A baby sleeping on an adult bed may become trapped in headboard slates, sheets and other loose beddings and this will cause suffocation.