What Causes SIDS In A Baby & Can You Prevent It?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a controversial condition, which occurs suddenly and about which doctors don`t know the exact causes, which adds to the fear of parents who have babies. Still, there`re a few risk factors which influence the triggering of the condition and which is good for every parent to avoid taking care of the newborn so that they protect their baby from an absurd death.

What Causes SIDS

What Is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

This syndrome represents the sudden death of a baby under the age of 1 years old, where the autopsy doesn`t really reveal a clear death cause. It appears in the first few months of life (around 3 months), especially during autumn or winter, mostly affecting male infants.

SIDS includes several entities:

  • Infant sudden death syndrome (44%).
  • Unknown cause of death (31%).
  • Strangulation or choking in bed (25%).

What Is the Difference between SIDS and SUID?

In the last few years, there are several terms around sudden infant death that became rather confusing, and this happened not only to parents in general, but even researchers or professionals.

Centers of Disease Control tried to clarify this issue and suggested that sudden unexpected infant death, also known as SUID, be used as a broad term which includes all sudden infant deaths, including SIDS, accidental deaths (strangulation, suffocation), homicides and sudden natural deaths.

Is SIDS Very Rare?

In the United Kingdom, almost 300 infants die unexpectedly and suddenly each year. This specific statistic might sound rather alarming, but this condition is rare and the risk of your child dying from this illness is quite low.

Most such deaths occur within the first 6 months of a child`s life. There`s a greater risk for this to occur when talking about low birth weight or babies born prematurely. As mentioned above, this syndrome has a tendency to be a bit more common when it comes to male babies.

What Causes SIDS in a Baby?

As already mentioned, the exact causes of this syndrome aren`t exactly known, but there has been some research that identified several factors that increase the risk of SIDS.

Putting the Baby to Sleep on His Belly

Studies have shown that one of the possible causes of SIDS might be the defect of poor development of specific regions of the baby`s brain, areas that are responsible for the child`s awakening and reaction to specific situations that may be dangerous.

There`s an assumption that, if they are put to sleep on their belly, babies with this particular defect might bury their face into the pillow and eventually not wake up, even if they cannot breathe. This is especially possible if the child will sleep on very soft pillow and if he won`t be able to turn on the back on his own.

Overheating of the Infant

As you may already know, small children aren`t able to control their body temperature too well. That`s why, a child well dressed or wrapped up may overheat, which may even cause him to stop breathing.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of SIDS?

This condition has no premonitory symptoms. Infants who die due to this syndrome:

  • Cannot be resuscitated;
  • Seem to be healthy before being put to sleep;
  • Don`t show any signs of struggle. Usually the baby is in the same position put by his parents in the first place.

Only around 5% of infants who die of this medical condition have a history of life-threatening events, and the relationship between SIDS, and these aren`t known. During these events, babies have long periods of apnea (more than 20 seconds). The skin of the infant has shades from pale green to pale, and the body stiffens only to then become flaky. Also, the baby may choke. One or more such events were suspected in some babies who died of medical condition. However, breath monitors which are used to detect periods of apnea aren`t useful in preventing SIDS.

What Are the Risk Factors that May Lead to SIDS?

There are several risk factors involving this medical condition.

Infant Risk Factors

  • Birth weight under 2.500 g.
  • Low Apgar score.
  • Prematurity.

Maternal Risk Factors

  • Smoking during pregnancy.
  • Maternal age under 20 years or over 30 years.

Other Risk Factors

  • Weaning the newborn on the stomach.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux.
  • Artificial food.
  • Placing the newborn to sleep in bed with another newborn or adult.


There`s no treatment for this medical condition. Death through SIDS cannot be prevented or predicted. However, precautions could be taken to prevent the occurrence of this syndrome, and about which we`ll talk below in this article.

Can You Prevent SIDS?

Although there are no exact causes of this syndrome, and some experts even contradict the theories according to which it could be prevented, there are still a series of risk factors that increase the risk of triggering this syndrome.

Starting from this series of risk factors and going through complex research and detailed studies, experts have identified a few preventive measures that parents could adopt to prevent babies from this frightening medical condition.

Sleeping on the Back

Putting the baby to sleep on his back, at least until he`s 1 year of age, represents the first and most important measure of precaution in preventing this syndrome. It`s the golden rule regarding SIDS, as it seem that the newborn`s fall asleep on his belly increases the risk of suffocation, and eventually death.

Following the promotion of this rather simple precaution method, specialists have recorded almost 50% less deaths caused by this medical condition.


The pacifier seems to be more than an accessory which quickly soothes the baby`s crying and helps him sleep a lot more easily. According to experts, it has an essential role in decreasing the risk for this syndrome`s occurrence.

Although the risk isn`t completely removed, using the pacifier during the infant`s sleep would offer some kind of protection against this syndrome which puts the baby`s health and life at risk.

Putting the Baby to Sleep Directly on the Mattress

You should remove all the toys, pillows and blankets from his bed, as they may represent some risk factors for the occurrence of this medical condition. According to experts, the infant may suffocate around these accessories.

It`s recommended to put your baby to sleep directly on the mattress, without any other stuff around him. It`s also advisable as the mattress on which you put the baby to be as firm as possible.

Immunization of the Baby

According to experts, vaccinated babies are more protected from SIDS than those who don`t really follow the compulsory immunization scheme for babies. There`s no particular vaccine against this syndrome, but it seems that the administration of vaccines specific to childhood would create a shield against this sudden infant death, which led doctors to introducing the immunization scheme among its methods of prevention.

Avoiding the Baby`s Exposure to Cigarette Smoke

Both smoking while pregnant as well as the exposure of the baby to cigarette smoke after birth are important risk factors for the occurrence of this syndrome. Passive smoking also affects premature babies born from mothers who have had this bad habit during pregnancy. However, babies born on term and from mothers who haven`t smoked, aren`t excluded from this risk if they get exposed to cigarette smoke.

Keeping the baby in dense smoke from cigarettes may cause hypoxia, which is lack of oxygenation of the brain, as well as hypercardia, meaning an excess of carbon dioxide, both risk factors which may increase the risk of SIDS occurrence.

Breastfeeding the Baby

Experts have discovered that breastfeeding the baby decreases by 50% the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfeeding has a very strong protective role on the baby`s organism. This process provided unique antibodies that come from the mother that protect the newborn from severe diseases, which include respiratory medical conditions which could lead to the occurrence of this syndrome.

Avoid Sleeping in the Same Bed with your Infant

Sleeping with the baby near you is a great experience, but it also raises lots of risks to your baby`s health. Experts have found that babies who sleep in the same bed with parents are generally subject to a few dangers which may affect their lives: dropping from the bed, accidental suffocation, etc.

Careful Supervision of the Baby

One of the most essential prevention measures of this syndrome, as well as the most common dangers to a infant`s life, is careful supervision. Keep an eye on your infant when he`s asleep in his crib, trolley or cart, so you can be sure he doesn`t suffocate with any of his toys around him.

Every once in a while, you can throw a look at him at night as well, to check if he`s breathing. It`s natural for parents to test the breathing of their baby at night, especially during the very first weeks of his life, when the risk of sudden infant death syndrome is high.

Image courtesy of pharmacyresearcher.com

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