What is sudden infant death syndrome?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a death which is can be explained, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. Crib death is sometimes called because the infants often die in their cribs.

Despite the cause is unknown, SIDS may be related to abnormalities in the portion of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.

In most cases, a parent or caregiver places the baby down to sleep and find the baby has died after they return. It’s no one’s fault. SIDS can happen even when you do everything right.

How common is sudden infant death?

Although SIDS is rare, it is one of the most common causes of death in babies between 1 and 12 months of age. Most babies who die of SIDS are between the ages of 2 and 4 months. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of sudden infant death?

SIDS has no symptoms or warning signs. Babies who die of SIDS seem healthy before being put to bed. They show no signs of struggle and are often found in the same position as when they were placed in the bed.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.


When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes sudden infant death syndrome?

A combination of physical and sleep environmental factors can make an infant to increase chances to SIDS. These factors may vary from child to child.

Physical factors

  • Brain abnormalities. Some infants have problems that make them more likely to die of SIDS when they are born. Many babies have the portion of the brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep isn’t yet mature enough to work properly.
  • Low birth weight. Premature birth or being part of a multiple birth increases the likelihood that a baby’s brain hasn’t matured completely, so he or she has less control over such automatic processes as breathing and heart rate.
  • Respiratory infection.  Many infants who died of SIDS had recently had a cold, which may contribute to breathing problems.

Sleep environmental factors

  • The items in a baby’s crib and his or her sleeping position can combine with a baby’s physical problems to increase the risk of SIDS
  • Sleeping on the stomach or side. Babies who are placed on their stomachs or sides to sleep may have more difficulty breathing than those placed on their backs.
  • Sleeping on a soft surface. Lying face down on a fluffy comforter or a waterbed can block an infant’s airway. Draping a blanket over a baby’s head also is risky.
  • Sleeping with parents. Although the risk of SIDS is lowered if an infant sleeps in the same room as his or her parents, the risk increases if the baby sleeps in the same bed because of more soft surfaces to impair breathing.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for sudden infant death syndrome?

There are many risk factors for sudden infant death, such as:

  • Boys are more likely to die of SIDS.
  • Infants are most vulnerable during the second and third months of life.
  • This factor may not be clear. Black, American Indian or Alaska Native infants are more likely to develop SIDS.
  • Family history. Babies who’ve had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at higher risk of SIDS.
  • Secondhand smoke. Babies who live with smokers have a higher risk of SIDS.
  • Being premature. Both being born early and having low birth weight increase your baby’s chances of SIDS.

Maternal risk factors

During pregnancy, the risk of SIDS is also affected by the mother, especially if she:

  • Is younger than 20
  • Smokes cigarettes
  • Uses drugs or alcohol
  • Has inadequate prenatal care

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is sudden infant death diagnosed?

No information available. Please consult with your doctor for medical advice.

How is sudden infant death treated?

No information available. Please consult with your doctor for medical advice.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remediesthat can help me manage sudden infant death?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with sudden infant death:

  • Back to sleep: You should place your baby on his or her back to sleep at night and nap time.
  • You should avoid fluffy, loose bedding in your baby’s sleep area.
  • Keep your baby’s face clear of coverings.
  • Be careful not to overheat your baby by overdressing or adding unnecessary covers.
  • You may offer your baby a pacifier when placed for sleep. If it falls out there is no need to replace it.
  • Don’t allow anyone to smoke around your baby.
  • Use a firm mattress in a safety-approved crib with a tight fitting sheet.
  • Do not use a car seat, carrier, swing, or similar product as your baby’s everyday sleep area. Never place your baby to sleep on soft surfaces, such as on a couch or sofa, pillows, quilts, sheepskins, or blankets.
  • Do not allow your baby to sleep alongside another person. The risk of unintentional smothering is too great.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: July 11, 2017 | Last Modified: July 11, 2017

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