Learn about possible causes, risks and prevention of the sudden unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby in the first year of life.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. SIDS is sometimes known as crib death because the infants often die in their cribs.
Although the cause is unknown, it appears that SIDS might be associated with defects in the portion of an infant's brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.
Researchers have discovered some factors that might put babies at extra risk. They've also identified measures you can take to help protect your child from SIDS. Perhaps the most important is placing your baby on his or her back to sleep.
A combination of physical and sleep environmental factors can make an infant more vulnerable to SIDS. These factors vary from child to child.
Physical factors associated with SIDS include:
The items in a baby's crib and his or her sleeping position can combine with a baby's physical problems to increase the risk of SIDS. Examples include:
Although sudden infant death syndrome can strike any infant, researchers have identified several factors that might increase a baby's risk. They include:
During pregnancy, the mother also affects her baby's risk of SIDS, especially if she:
There's no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS, but you can help your baby sleep more safely by following these tips:
Back to sleep. Place your baby to sleep on his or her back, rather than on the stomach or side, every time you — or anyone else — put the baby to sleep for the first year of life. This isn't necessary when your baby's awake or able to roll over both ways without help.
Don't assume that others will place your baby to sleep in the correct position — insist on it. Advise sitters and child care providers not to use the stomach position to calm an upset baby.
Have your baby sleep in in your room. Ideally, your baby should sleep in your room with you, but alone in a crib, bassinet or other structure designed for infant sleep, for at least six months, and, if possible, up to a year.
Adult beds aren't safe for infants. A baby can become trapped and suffocate between the headboard slats, the space between the mattress and the bed frame, or the space between the mattress and the wall. A baby can also suffocate if a sleeping parent accidentally rolls over and covers the baby's nose and mouth.
Offer a pacifier. Sucking on a pacifier without a strap or string at naptime and bedtime might reduce the risk of SIDS. One caveat — if you're breast-feeding, wait to offer a pacifier until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and you've settled into a nursing routine.
If your baby's not interested in the pacifier, don't force it. Try again another day. If the pacifier falls out of your baby's mouth while he or she is sleeping, don't pop it back in.
There's no treatment for sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. But there are ways to help your baby sleep safely. For the first year, always place your baby on his or her back to sleep. Use a firm mattress and avoid fluffy pads and blankets. Remove all toys and stuffed animals from the crib, and try using a pacifier. Don't cover a baby's head, and make sure your baby doesn't get too hot. Your baby can sleep in your room, but not in your bed. Breast feeding for at least six months lowers the risk of SIDS. Vaccine shots to protect your baby from diseases may also help prevent SIDS.
After losing a baby to SIDS, getting emotional support is critical. You might feel guilt as well as grief, and you'll be dealing with the mandatory police investigation into cause of death. You might find it comforting to talk to other parents whose lives have been touched by SIDS.
Ask your doctor to recommend a support group in your area or visit an online SIDS chat room. Talking to a trusted friend, counselor or clergy member can also help.
If you can, let friends and family know how you're feeling. People want to help, but they might not know how to approach you.
Losing a child can put a terrible strain on a relationship, so be as open as possible with your spouse or partner. Counseling might help some couples understand and express their feelings.
Finally, give yourself time to grieve. Don't worry if you find yourself crying unexpectedly, if holidays and other celebratory times are especially difficult, or if you're tired and drained much of the time.
You're dealing with a devastating loss. Healing takes time.
December 24th, 2020