What Is Sudden Infant Death Sydrome (SIDS) & How Can You Prevent It

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Sydrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death in young infants. For the uninitiated, it is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. Also known as “crib death” (or “cot death”), SIDS usually occurs during sleep and most cases happen in babies 2 to 4 months old.

While the cause of SIDS is unknown, Mayo Clinic noted that it might be associated with defects in the portion of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep. Possible SIDS risks include drinking or drug use during pregnancy and after birth, secondhand smoke, poor prenatal care, prematurity or low birth weight, respiratory infection as well as overheating. Besides that, researchers have also found that boys and non-white infants are slightly more likely to develop SIDS. Babies who’ve had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at higher risk, too.

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So what can you do to prevent SIDS?

Although there isn’t a surefire way to prevent it, you can help your baby sleep more safely by following these crucial steps:

  • Back to sleep: Place your baby to sleep on his or her back. This is because babies’ risk of SIDS is much higher when they sleep on their back or stomach. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) “Back to Sleep” campaign recommends that all infants should be placed on their backs until 12 months of age.
  • Remove soft toys and loose bedding from crib: To prevent smothering or suffocation, you should lay your baby down to sleep on a firm mattress. WebMD explained that items such as blankets, stuffed animals, toys, and pillows could suffocate or trap your baby.
  • Breastfeed your little one: You may already know this but breast milk is beneficial to your baby and it can help reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. In addition, breastfed infants are at lower risk for Type I and II diabetes, Leukemia, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as asthma.
  • Temperature control: Make sure that your baby doesn’t get too warm because overheating can cause SIDS. Dress your baby in lightweight clothes (such as a onesie or a wearable blanket) during bedtime.
  • Don’t smoke around your baby: This is highly important! Be sure not to expose your baby to secondhand smoke during or after your pregnancy. Also, please refrain from using tobacco, alcohol, or drugs while you are pregnant.
  • Sleep with your baby: At least for the first 6 months. The AAP recommends room sharing because it can decrease the risk of sudden death by as much as 50% and is much safer than bed sharing.

For more info, visit AAP’s website.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP)Mayo ClinicWebMD, Healthy Children.