Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant who is younger than one year old. SIDS seems to strike without warning, usually in babies who seem perfectly healthy.

Even though the number of SIDS cases has dropped in the last 10 years, it’s still the leading cause of death in infants between one month and one year.

We don’t know for certain what causes SIDS. But we do know that some babies are at higher risk of SIDS than others. Most SIDS deaths happen in babies two to four months old. SIDS can happen any time of year, but it’s more common in the winter months. There is no sign that babies who have lost a brother or sister to SIDS are at higher risk.

There is not one particular thing that causes SIDS – it’s usually, it’s a combination of things can make a baby at higher risk of getting SIDS.

Nobody knows how to totally prevent SIDS, but the latest research shows that there are things you can do to make your baby safer. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends:

Put your baby to sleep on his back on his back on a firm, flat surface

Babies under one year of age who sleep on their backs are less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides. Place your baby on his back, with his feet at the bottom of the crib. Be sure to tell anyone who looks after your baby – grandparents, friends, caregivers – to put him to sleep on his back.

Remove soft, fluffy and loose bedding and stuffed toys from your baby’s crib.

Make sure you keep all pillows, quilts, stuffed toys, bumper pads and other soft things away from your baby’s sleep area.. Doctors think that not having enough air flowing around the baby could contribute to SIDS.

Stay smoke- and drug-free

Don’t smoke, drink or do drugs while you are pregnant. Make sure no one smokes around you when you’re pregnant and make sure no one smokes around your baby after she’s born. Babies who breathe in second hand smoke are at a higher risk of getting SIDS and at a higher risk of getting respiratory infections like pneumonia.  Make your car and home smoke-free.

Keep babies at a comfortable temperature – not too cold, not too hot

Make sure your baby does not get too warm while sleeping. If the room temperature is right for you, it’s right for the baby, too. To check if your baby is too hot, place your hand on the back of his neck. If he is sweating, take off a layer of clothing.

Breastfeed your baby, if possible

There is some evidence that breastfeeding may help lower the risk for SIDS. The reason for this is not clear, but doctors think that breast milk may help protect babies from infections that increase the risk of SIDS.

If your family has experienced SIDS, it’s important not to blame yourself. We can reduce the risk of SIDS, but we can’t prevent all SIDS deaths. There is no way of knowing which babies will be affected by SIDS.

For parents and families who have experienced SIDS, there are many groups that provide grief support, referrals and information:

Baby’s Breath is dedicated to solving the mystery of SIDS and to the emotional support of those who are affected.

You can also ask your doctor, public health nurse, or faith leader about counselling and support groups.