- What is Sudden Unexpected Death of an Infant?
- What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? (SIDS)
- What practices may contribute Sudden Unexpected Death of an Infant?
- Safe sleep recommendations
- Is SIDS preventable?
- More information
Sudden Unexpected Death of an Infant is any infant death that is unexpected and initially unexplained.
Frequently, a cause of death is determined after a thorough investigation and autopsy by a medical examiner and coroner. The deaths that remain unexplained are defined as SIDS. Therefore, SIDS is a type of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden death of an infant under 1 year of age, which remains unexplained after a thorough investigation including a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene and review of the clinical history.
In the United States, SIDS is the major cause of death in infants from 1 month to 1 year. Most deaths occur between 2-4 months of age. Typically, a seemingly healthy infant dies suddenly and unexpectedly, usually during a period of sleep. A diagnosis is made after all the possible causes of death have been excluded. SIDS can occur in families of any race, socio-economic status, religion or nationality.
Causes of SIDS remain unexplained. However, SIDS is not caused by suffocation, child abuse, immunizations, vomiting, choking or by minor illnesses such as a cold or infection. SIDS is not contagious.
- Placing the infant on tummy or side when sleeping.
- Placing the baby on loose bedding or soft sleep surfaces such as, quilts, comforters, sheepskin, pillow-like toys, pillows; or sleeping on a waterbed, couch or chair. These keep the baby from breathing easily.
- Infant exposure to any tobacco smoke during and after pregnancy.
- Bedsharing with other children or adults.
- Overdressing /bundling the baby too tightly in heavy blankets or a room that is too hot.
- Preterm and low birth weight infants.
- Maternal risk factors such as:
- age less than 20 at first pregnancy
- a short interval between pregnancies
- late or no prenatal care
- placental abnormalities
- low weight gain during pregnancy
- alcohol and substance abuse
- history of sexually transmitted disease or urinary tract infection
- Read our 10 Tips for Making a Safe Sleep Environment for your Baby
- What does a safe sleep environment look like?
The most important step to prevent unexpected death is to provide a safe sleeping environment for all infants. Every year, some infants die while sleeping. Parents can reduce the risks of this tragedy by knowing and following these simple guidelines that will help meet the goal of making sure the sleeping baby’s breathing remains clear and unobstructed, and that the baby does not get into a position that could cause injury.
Review these steps with anyone who cares for the baby (relatives, grandparents, childcare providers, babysitters).
- Place babies on their back to sleep. Side sleeping is not advised. Do not use any pillows, cushions or blankets to prop the baby.
- Use a firm mattress, closely fitted to the sides and bottom of the crib.
- Use a crib that meets the current safety standards (2 3/8 inch openings).
- Keep the crib free of soft objects such as pillows, comforters, soft bedding, or stuffed animals.
- Don't bundle the baby too tightly in heavy blankets or clothing. The bedroom temperature should be kept comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.
- Keep the head and face uncovered. Consider using a one-piece sleeper/suit. If a blanket is used, it should only reach as far as the baby’s chest.
- Never smoke around a baby. Maintain a smoke free environment.
- A sleep environment separate from, but close to the parents is recommended. It is suggested that parents place a crib, bassinet or cradle that meets safety standards near the bed, instead of having the baby sleep in bed with the parents. Do not put the baby to sleep on an adult bed or sofa. Sometimes a baby is injured by rolling off an adult bed or sofa.
- Breastfeeding has important health benefits for babies. Babies may be brought into bed for breastfeeding or comforting, but should be returned to the crib/bassinet when the parent is ready to sleep.
- Never let a baby fall asleep with someone who is smoking, tired or ill, has taken medication, drugs, alcohol, or substances that cause drowsiness, or is extremely overweight.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be offered a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. Do not reinsert the pacifier if the baby refuses it or falls asleep. Do not coat the pacifier with anything sweet. The pacifier should be cleaned regularly. Delay pacifier use until after 1 month of age if the baby is breastfeeding.
- Encourage “tummy time” when the baby is awake and observed by an adult. This will encourage motor development.
- Alter the head position during sleep (place the baby with the head to one side for one week and then change to the other the following week). This will help reduce the risk of the baby developing a flat area on the back of the head.
It is important to follow the risk reduction steps above. However, because risk factors are not, in and of themselves, causes of SIDS, it is not always possible to prevent unexplained infant death (SIDS).
- Your pediatric health care provider
- March of Dimes
PO Box 932852
- SUID/SIDS Information Gateway
Maternal and Child Health Library