Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – Risk Factors and Prevention

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a sudden death of infant under 12 months, due to unknown reasons. It is also called ‘cot death’ or ‘crib death’- is noise less and shows no signs. SIDS constitutes for 80% of Sudden and Unexpected Death Syndrome (SUIDS). The causes are not known yet but there are many risk factors that can cause death of a healthy infant, when apparently there was no reason or illness.

The American Academy of Pediatrics have come up with various risk factors and how one can prevent these factors. Although the causes are unknown, yet it can be avoided by knowing about SIDS and following preventive measures.

Risk Factors:

Infant’s Brain Defect:

Studies suggest that the infant might have defects in brain regions which are related to breathing and waking up after a nap. Due to these defects which cannot be diagnosed, infant can die while sleeping and nobody can figure out the reason.

Genetics and Sex:

Genetics play an important role in SIDS. It is estimated that 50% are baby boys, out of 1000 births, those who die from SIDS. Again, the cause that why boys are more susceptible, is unknown.

Low Birth Weight:

The infants with low birth weight and those who are born before 39th week of pregnancy are more susceptible to SIDS.

Respiratory Infection:

The common flu which otherwise has not much harm can be fatal for infants. Due to difficulty in breathing, nasal blockage, and too much phlegm, the infant can die suddenly during sleep.

No Vaccination:

If the infant’s vaccination is scheduled and parents ignore it then it can be fatal. Due to no proper immunization, the child can catch any illness and can result in SIDS.

Soft surface for sleeping:

Use of soft mattress, pillows and soft toys where the child is sleeping can result in SIDS. Too soft bed can restrain the process of breathing and there is a possibility that child can re-breathe carbon dioxide or have no proper oxygen supply.

Sleeping on stomach:

Sleeping on stomach can halt the breathing process as infants mouth and nose can be covered by the under lying sheet.


Co-sleeping or bed sharing can be a risk factor for SIDS. The parents, siblings or care givers who are sleeping with infant can roll on him/her and can restrict the process of breathing. Also, making infant sleep on sofa or couch can also be fatal.


Too much covered environment, excessive use of heaters and too many pillows can cause overheating. Tiny lungs cannot breathe properly in this much heat and can result in SIDS.

Use of Alcohol and cigarettes by parents and caregivers:

Use of Alcohol and tobacco near the infants whether they are awake or asleep is dangerous. Due to smoke, infant cannot breathe properly. A pregnant woman who smokes has higher risk of infant experiencing SIDS after birth.


Timely Immunization:

Strictly follow your child’s immunization card. In this way there will be less possibility of catching any air or water borne illness.

Plain Sleeping Surface:

The sleeping surface should be as plain as possible. It should be slightly hard and preferably the original crib or cot surface is enough. Don’t put another layer of mattress or sheets. Only use a hard fitting sheet on the bed of infant.

Relatively cool sleeping area:

Make sure that the place where baby is sleeping is not over heated and there is enough ventilation. Keep windows open or use Air conditioner if it’s too hot. Don’t over cover the baby in winters. It is often advised that infants should have only one extra layer of clothing as compared to the adults.

Also, the use of blanket bags can be beneficial. As it prevents the baby from changing sides and does not cover his/her face.

Separate cot for sleeping:

Avoid bed sharing with your infant. Make them sleep in separate cots so that there is no hindrance while breathing. It is advised that the cot should be kept in parents’ or caregivers’ room.

Breast Feed Baby:

Breast fed infants are less likely a victim of SIDS. The causes are unknown. It might be suggested that the immunity of baby increases due to mother feed. If possible, infant should be breast fed exclusively for initial 6 months.

Smoke free area for infant:

People around an infant must refrain from the use of tobacco. Smoke can be deadly for the little souls. Pregnant women should also avoid smoking and use of alcohol.

Use of pacifiers:

Use of pacifiers is seen to be beneficial for the infants. It’s just a myth that infants do not take feed properly if they are using pacifiers. Pacifiers soothe the baby and can prevent him/her from SIDS.

Do not rely on baby monitors:

The American Association of Pediatrics strictly ask parents and care givers to avoid the use of baby monitors. These products in the market are not enough to rely upon.


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