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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

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Robyn's Nest Related Articles
Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Safe Bedding Practices
Study to Focus on SIDS Prevention
Overheating of Infants Related to SIDS

SIDSSIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the leading cause of death for infants between ages two months to one year, in the United States. The illness causes the death of approximately 5,000 to 6,000 infants annually.


SIDS, or "crib death," has been formally diagnosed since the 1960's, but it has existed for centuries.

The death rate from SIDS has been declining in the last twenty years due to several discoveries. One, an apnea/bradycardia monitor, has been used since the 1970's to detect if the infant stops breathing while asleep or develops a slow heartrate. An alarm alerts parents to potentially fatal vital signs. Another discovery is that the majority of infants who die of SIDS usually have a chronic abnormality, previously undetected. The death rate from SIDS has declined by 15% due to increased detection of high-risk infants and more availability of clinical services.

Infants who are breast-fed, and who live in homes where there are no smokers, have a lesser likelihood of developing SIDS.


A profile of SIDS babies has been developed. SIDS is more common in:

   -   Mothers who are not married
   -   Mothers who are younger
   -   Mothers with more than one infant
   -   Mothers who smoke
   -   Mothers who didn't graduate from high school
   -   Mothers who had inadequate prenatal care
   -   Mothers who didn't breast-feed their infants
   -   Mothers who used heroin, cocaine or methadone during pregnancy

Other facts about SIDS:

   -   SIDS occurs more during the winter and can be associated with a minor illness
   -   Male infants are more likely to develop SIDS. 60% of SIDS deaths are with male infants
   -   SIDS is more common on the west coast than on the east coast
   -   Native American infants are at higher risk than African-Americans who are greater risk than Caucasians
   -   There is no causal relationship demonstrated regarding the infant's sleeping position. However, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Institutes for Child Health & Human Development recommend that all healthy infants be placed on their back when sleeping.
   -   SIDS is more common in low birth weight infants, those weighing 3 ½ pounds or less at birth


During the 1960's, SIDS was believed to happen to normal, healthy babies. Research data have proven that the majority of cases were when the infants had a chronic abnormality, undetected, which predisposed them to die from SIDS. SIDS victims may have respiratory abnormalities, poor muscle tone, abnormal reflexes, unstable regulation of their body temperature, and slight increases in resting heart rate. It appears that a chronic inadequate oxygen supply may have occurred before the infant died.


Prior to death from SIDS, infants who are at high risk develop symptoms of sudden skin color change, muscle tone change or respiratory difficulties. Evaluation and intervention by experienced clinicians can determine if medical or surgical therapies are appropriate to correct the disorder causing the symptoms. If medical or surgical therapies cannot correct the underlying disorder, the physician might recommend a home monitoring system to allow parents to know if the infant suffers respiratory or cardiac distress. The home monitoring systems will sound an alarm if the baby stops breathing for 15-20 seconds or if the heart rate drops below a specified level.

For more information about SIDS, call 1-800-232-SIDS.

Related SIDS Articles:
Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Safe Bedding Practices
Study to Focus on SIDS Prevention
Overheating of Infants Related to SIDS


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SIDS-Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (fact sheet)


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