Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death of an infant 12 months or younger. It is the no. 1 cause of death among babies at this age. SIDS is the most common of several infant death causes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorizes as Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). Other causes of SUID include suffocation, infections and poisoning.
SIDS cases are declining in the United States as doctors and authorities raise awareness among parents and caregivers. Still, rates are higher among certain ethnic populations, including blacks and American Indians. Overall, some 2,000 babies die from SIDS each year.
Risk Factors for SIDS
Though the cause of SIDS is unknown, there are certain factors that put a baby at a greater risk of SIDS. A lot of these factors can be controlled, like poor prenatal care or the mother smoking, drinking and using drugs during pregnancy. A baby that is premature, has a low birth weight or is born to a woman under the age of 20 also is at a greater risk for SIDS. Using too much bedding, wearing sleepwear that is too heavy or sleeping on the stomach also increase the odds of SIDS.
One of the most important factors in preventing SIDS is to put babies on their backs to sleep, every time. Health care providers have been trying to raise awareness of this for several years, as it’s a simple step that can prevent most cases of SIDS. In addition, the baby should sleep on a firm mattress with a fitted sheet and should not have loose bedding, stuffed animals and other toys in the sleep area. Finally, keeping the baby at the proper temperature during sleep is another important step. The baby should be dressed in light sleep clothing, and the temperature in the room should be comfortable for an adult.
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; KidsHealth
Safe infant sleep practices in the U.S. are suboptimal.
Unsafe sleep practices continue to cause infant suffocation deaths.