Sudden infant death syndrome is a term used to describe the sudden and unexpected death of an infant that is normally described as healthy before they reach one year old. SIDS has also been referred to as crib death since as many of the cases have occurred while the child was sleeping in their crib.
What Are the Causes of SIDS?
Unfortunately, the cause of sudden infant death syndrome is not known, although there have been studies that show a link between SIDS and defects in the areas of the baby’s brain that helps to regulate breathing controls and sleep arousal.
What Are the Risks for SIDS?
Even though the exact cause of SIDS has not been fully been determined, research has uncovered causal factors that can put babies at higher risks. Some of the risk factor associated with high incidents of sudden infant death syndrome include:
Some groups of infants that have been affected by SIDS more than others are those with immature portions of their brains that directly affect breathing and the sleep and wake cycle.
Many of the instances of SIDS have occurred after an infant had recently suffered from some respiratory infection which is believed to have contributed to breathing complications. Though it is important to remember that not all children that have respiratory infections with succumb to SIDS.
Low Birth Weight
Multiples or other premature babies are most likely to be born below average birth weight which can lead to a delay in achieving milestones and sometimes other health complications. These delays and complications are often linked to the baby’s brain not having enough time to fully mature. When an infant’s brain has not fully developed the parts of the brain that regulate breathing and heart rate, they may lack control over the processes that control these functions.
There have been many other risk factors associated with a higher risk of SIDS. Some of these include gender, which shows higher instances in boys than girls, age, which shows higher instance rates between two and four-month-olds, and family history, which shows infants with siblings or cousins who have died from SIDS are at increased risk.
How Can SIDS be Prevented?
Knowing the risks and possible connections with sudden infant death syndrome have allowed doctors to come up with preventative measures that can help lower the risk of a child succumbing to SIDS. Preventative measures that physicians recommend for parents to help reduce their infant’s risk of SIDS include:
- Maintaining a healthy pregnancy by not smoking, drinking, or using recreational drugs
- Prohibiting smoking in the home and around your infant
- Putting your baby to sleep on their back, so they have the clearest airway for breathing
- Having your child sleep on an infant mattress free from pillow, blankets, and toys
- Keeping your baby in the same room with you although not in your bed
- Maintaining the temperature of the room so that your baby does not become too warm during the night
While the thought of SIDS can be a terrifying feeling for all parents, proper sleeping techniques and reducing risk factors such as smoking have shown a reduction in the amount of SID related deaths. Until researchers determine the exact cause of SIDS the best prevention is following the sleep guidelines discussed with your doctor.