Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Risk Factors And Prevention

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is death of an infant without any known cause. The child is apparently healthy and less than one year old. Diagnosis of sudden infant death syndrome is made when the death remains unexplained despite a complete clinical assessment of the child, including the performance of autopsy.

This condition was first defined in 1969. Since then many research articles have been published by various doctors yet the exact cause of SIDS remains unknown.  This mysterious condition is suspected to involve several risk factors such as babies sleeping on stomach, babies sharing the same bed with mother, overheating during sleep, premature baby etc.

Sudden infant death syndrome is more likely to occur in babies between 2 to 4 months old. Researchers have suggested several measures to prevent SIDS. Placing the baby on his back during sleep is perhaps the most effective measure to prevent sudden infant death syndrome.

Causes And Risk Factors Of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

The exact cause of sudden infant death syndrome is still unknown to researchers. Although the incidence of SIDS has decreased in recent times, it still remains one of the leading causes of death in infants between 2 to 4 months of age.

Generally several factors have been suspected to play a role in this mysterious condition called sudden infant death syndrome. Such risk factors are:

  • Baby between 2 to 4 months of age.
  • Babies sleeping on stomach or on side rather than on back.
  • Low birth weight, premature babies and twins, triplets etc.
  • Excessive heat during sleep.
  • Babies sleeping on soft surface.
  • Mothers sharing the same bed with babies.
  • Mothers younger than 20 years at the time of their first pregnancy.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome is slightly more common in boys than baby girls.
  • Family history of babies dying from SIDS.
  • Exposure to passive smoking. It can be with anyone such as smoking by mother, father etc.
  • Mother smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Short period of time between two pregnancies.

Prevention Of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

There are no predictive ways that will help to determine which baby is at risk of sudden infant death syndrome. But several safe preventive measures can make the baby safe from this condition. Since the condition usually occurs during sleep, you have to take certain precautions when the baby is sleeping.

  • Always place the baby on his back when he is sleeping. Avoid placing on his stomach or on the sides.
  • The baby’s mattress must be firm and not soft or fluffy. Do not leave any stuffed toys or pillow in the crib. This may interfere with the child’s breathing if the face of baby presses against such toys.
  • Do not use anything that keeps the baby overheated. Keep the baby warm but not overheated. Avoid putting too many blankets or clothing when the baby is sleeping.
  • You can let the baby sleep in your room but not on your bed. He must sleep alone in the crib or any space that is designed for the baby to sleep. This may be followed for at least one year.
  • Breast feeding is known to reduce the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome. Hence always try to breast feed the child at least for first six months.
  • Keep the baby in smoke free environment. Do not allow anyone to smoke near your baby.
  • Mothers must abstain from smoking and alcohol during pregnancy and after pregnancy.

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