The sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby, under the age of 1 is commonly referred to as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Infant deaths linked to SIDS are most commonly associated with sleep and hence it is also known as ‘crib death’ or ‘cot death’.
While the exact causes are hard to determine, children born with low birth weights (or premature birth), babies that have recently experienced respiratory infections or infants with under-developed brains (part of the brain that controls breathing and awakening from sleep) are more vulnerable.
Two key sleep environment factors that may cause SIDS include bed sharing with a parent(s) and soft surfaces/bedding that may increase the chance of suffocation and overheating. According to the NHS in the UK, babies who die of SIDS are thought to have problems in the way they regulate their heart rate, breathing and temperature.
Mothers that smoked, used drugs and/or consumed alcohol during their pregnancy OR babies that are exposed to second hand smoke and/or parent(s) that use drugs have an increased chance. Expecting mothers must be given adequate prenatal care.
While SIDS cannot be prevented, there are safety precautions that help lower the risk.
1. A baby younger than 1 year old should sleep on their back. Babies should never sleep on their side or on their stomach either.You may read our guide on the importance of tummy time to better understand when and how to place your child on their tummy.
2. Use a firm mattress and keep the crib free from stuffed toys, blankets, padding or anything that may interfere with their breathing.
3. Don’t let your baby get too hot or too cold. Experts recommend that the ideal temperature in the baby’s room be kept between 20–22.2°C when they sleep.
4. Do not share a bed with your baby. Your child must sleep alone in their crib/bassinet in your room for at least the first six months and if possible, up to a year.
5. You may give your child a pacifier. But never attach the pacifier to the child’s neck or crib with a strap as that may present a choking hazard.
6. Babies that are breast fed for at least the first six months of life have a lower risk of SIDS.
Always consult with a qualified medical professional or childcare expert when taking important decisions regarding your child and their health.
Reviewed by: Julie Mallon
Date reviewed: 6th January, 2019
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