Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death among infants one month through one year of age in the United States. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) defines SIDS as the sudden death of an infant under one year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examinations of the death scene and review of clinical history. SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion, assigned only once all known and possible causes of death have been ruled out.
Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) is the sudden and unexpected death of a child over the age of 12 months, which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation is conducted.
In a typical situation parents check on their supposedly sleeping infant to find him or her dead. This is the worst tragedy parents can face, a tragedy which leaves them with a sadness and feeling of vulnerability that can last throughout their lives. Since medicine can not tell them why their baby died, they blame themselves and often other innocent people. Their lives and those around them are changed forever.
What Can Be Done?
Unfortunately, SIDS deaths cannot be prevented now. To do so requires a much greater understanding of SIDS, which will only be achieved with a considerably expanded research effort. However, there are things that can be done to reduce the risk of SIDS.
1. Always place infants to sleep on their backs.
2. Place infants to sleep in a baby bed with a firm mattress. There should be nothing in the bed with the baby. No covers, pillows, bumper pads or toys.
3. Keep your baby’s crib in the parents’ room as long as possible. Studies show that infants are safest when their beds are close to their mothers.
4. Do not place your baby to sleep in an adult bed. Don’t share sleep surfaces.
5. Don’t let your baby get too hot. Overheating is a leading risk factor for SIDS.
6. Avoid exposing your infant to tobacco smoke.
7. Breast-feed babies whenever possible.
8. Offer your baby a pacifier at all sleep times. Pacifiers have been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
9. Avoid exposing the infant to people with respiratory infections. Have people wash their hands before holding or playing with your baby. SIDS often occurs in association with relatively minor respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.