UAB Medicine News
What you need to know about SIDS
Facts About SIDS
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death among infants 1 to 12 months of age. Because there is no known cause of SIDS, the syndrome has an aura of mystery and understandable fear for parents. However, research provides important distinctions that remove some of the mystery about unexplained infant deaths, and, most importantly, indicate methods of infant care that significantly reduce the risk.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a recent term, "sudden unexpected infant deaths" (SUID), making SIDS a subcategory of SUID. Each year in the United States there are about 3,500 SUIDs. These deaths occur among infants less than a year old and have no immediately obvious cause. There are three categories:
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) The sudden death of an infant less than 1 year of age that remains undetermined after a thorough investigation, including an autopsy, examination of the death scene, and a review of the clinical history. About 1,500 infants died of SIDS in 2014, the latest year for which the CDC has published data.
Unknown Cause The sudden death of an infant less than 1 year of age that remains unexplained because some aspect of the investigation was not completed.
Accidental Suffocation and Strangulation in Bed
The sudden death of an infant less than 12 months old caused by suffocation from soft bedding—for example, when a pillow or soft material covers an infant's nose and mouth. Other causes are overlay when (a parent or sibling rolls on top of or against the infant during sleep), entrapment (infant caught between two objects such as a mattress and the wall, bed frame, or furniture), and strangulation (infant’s head and neck caught between crib railings or other structure).
Nearly 25 percent of SUIDs in recent years have been the result of some form of suffocation. That’s a grim statistic, but also a hopeful one, because it means that such deaths may be prevented by simple procedures. The following infant-care methods can reduce the risk of both SIDS and suffocation.
1. The back sleep position is the safest position for all infants, including those born preterm or early. You should always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, for all sleep times—for naps and at night—to reduce the risk of SIDS. Babies who usually sleep on their backs but who are then placed to sleep on their stomachs, for a sleep time like a nap, are at very high risk.
2. Babies who sleep on soft surfaces or under a soft covering, such as a soft blanket or quilt, are at higher risk for SIDS and suffocation. Use a firm sleep surface covered by a fitted sheet. Infants should never sleep on soft surfaces such as a sofa, comforters, quilts, or pillows. Do not place your baby to sleep on a waterbed, sofa, or soft mattress that allows the infant’s head to sink into the surface.
3. Keeping a baby's sleep area in the same room and next to where you sleep is recommended to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. Your baby should also not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair alone, with you or with anyone else. Babies who are placed for sleep on adult bed, sofa, couch, or armchair are at serious risk for accidental suffocation, entrapment, injury, and death—whether they are alone or if they share the sleep area with someone
4. Do not place soft objects, toys, crib bumpers, and loose bedding in an infant’s sleep area. It is reported that the majority of other sleep-related infant deaths are due to accidental suffocation involving pillows, quilts, and extra blankets. Loose bedding and soft bedding, placed over or under the baby, such as quilts, comforters, and pillows increase the risk of SIDS regardless of sleep position. Bumper pads and similar products that attach to crib slats or sides are frequently used with the intent of protecting infants from injury. However, evidence does not support using crib bumpers to prevent injury. In fact, crib bumpers can cause serious injuries and even death.
5. Research shows that babies who are breastfed or fed with breast milk for the first six months of life are at lower risk of SIDS. Breastfeeding has many health benefits for mothers and babies. If you bring your baby into your bed to breastfeed, make sure to put him or her back in a separate sleep area, such as a safety-approved crib, bassinet, or portable play area, in your room next to where you sleep when finished.
6. Research shows that babies who used pacifiers during their last sleep were at significantly lower risk for SIDS than were babies who did not. Think about giving your baby a dry pacifier for sleep, but don't force the baby to use it.
7. Infants who get too warm during sleep might sleep too deeply and be unable to wake themselves up, which could play a role in SIDS. For these reasons, you should dress your baby in no more than one layer more of clothing than an adult would wear to be comfortable. Babies who are too warm might sweat, have damp hair, have flushed or red cheeks, have a heat rash, or breathe rapidly (as if they are panting). Using a blanket is not recommended. In most cases, sleep clothing without a blanket is enough to keep baby warm during sleep. If you are concerned the room is not warm enough, consider using an infant blanket sleeper.
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