Child Health

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome


  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby.
  • A diagnosis of SIDS is made if the baby’s death remains unexplained even after his death. It is the sudden death of a seemingly healthy infant. 
  • SIDS is more likely to affect a baby who is 2 - 4 months old. 
  • Most SIDS cases occur while the baby is asleep in their crib at night.

SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. A baby is determined to have died from SIDS if no cause of death can be identified following a death scene investigation, an autopsy, and a review of the clinical history. 

Other names:
  • Crib death 
  • Cot death

The most likely theory is that infants who die of SIDS have an underlying weakness (such as: specific genotype or subtle brain abnormalities). They get exposed to a stimulus of environmental factors (such as: unsafe sleeping positions, unsafe sleeping environment, the mother being a smoker during pregnancy or after childbirth, exposure to secondhand smoke, or contracting an infection in the early development stages of the brain or immune system).

Risk factors:
Although SIDS can affect any infant, researchers have identified several factors that may increase the risk, including:
  • Age: Infants who are between 2 and 4 months old are at the highest risk. 
  • Smoking: Babies who live with smokers have a higher risk of SIDS.
  • Infection: Many infants who died of SIDS have had an infection that may have caused them breathing problems.

Sleep environmental factors:
The objects in a baby’s crib and where he sleeps, together with his physical problems, can increase his risk of SIDS. These factors include:
  • Sleeping on the stomach or sides: Babies placed in these sleeping positions may have more difficulty breathing than those placed on their backs.
  • Sleeping on a soft surface: Soft bedding with soft covers or waterbeds can cause the child to easily slide under the sheets. This may prevent breathing and could lead to death.
  • Bed sharing: The risk of SIDS increases if the baby sleeps in the same bed as parents, siblings or pets.
  • The baby getting overheated during sleep can lead to SIDS.

Maternal risk factors:
During pregnancy, a mother also has an influence on her baby's risk of SIDS, especially if she smokes cigarettes, or uses drugs or alcohol.

Prevention during pregnancy:
Pregnant women should get regular prenatal care and stop smoking during pregnancy.

After birth:
  • Place your baby on his back to sleep.
  • It is preferable for a baby to sleep in his mother’s room but in a separate bed until he is 6 months old.
  • Make sure that your baby is warm. The best temperature for your baby is the one that makes him feel comfortable.
  • Don’t allow anyone to smoke around your baby. 
  • Keep fluffy blankets and stuffed animals out of his crib and make sure the bedding he is sleeping on doesn’t move or slip. 
  • You can let your baby lay on his stomach when he is awake as long as a parent is watching. Occasional sleeping on the stomach helps with the development of the neck muscles and prevents a flat head from over-sleeping on the back.
  • Studies have shown that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS, possibly because breastfeeding protects the infant from infections. Therefore, it is recommended to continue breastfeeding until the age of 6 months or more.

  • If one baby dies of SIDS, does this mean that his siblings are at risk of SIDS?
    • Siblings of babies who die of SIDS are 5 to 6 times more likely to die of SIDS themselves than infants without siblings who have had this syndrome.

Myths & Truths
  • Sleeping on a bed can cause SIDS. 
    • Truth: Cribs themselves do not cause SIDS, but sleep environmental factors (such as: soft sleeping surfaces) can increase the risk of SIDS and other causes of infant deaths.
  • Vaccines, immunizations and drugs cause SIDS. 
    • Truth: There is no evidence that vaccines lead to SIDS. All babies must see their healthcare providers regularly for checkups. They must also receive their vaccinations on time, as recommended by their healthcare providers.

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Last Update : 01 October 2020 02:01 AM
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