SIDS is the third leading cause of death in infants between the ages of 1 month and 1 year and currently the exact cause is unknown. It is the unexpected, sudden death of an infant under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death.
Many physicians and researchers now believe that SIDS is caused by problems with sleep arousal and an inability to sense a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. Almost all SIDS deaths occur without any warning or symptoms, when the infant is thought to be sleeping.
The most important way to prevent SIDS is to place infants on their back when putting them to sleep.
Some infants are at a higher risk than others, such as babies who were one of a set of twins or other multiple births; were delivered premature; or have a sibling with SIDS. If a mother smoked or abused substances during pregnancy, if she was very young when she gave birth, received late prenatal care, or is of a low socioeconomic status, the baby is also at a higher risk for SIDS.
The incidence of SIDS has dropped by almost one-half since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that parents place infants on their back or side when sleeping. Other recommendations for preventing SIDS include:
Review Date: 12/9/2012
Reviewed By: Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.