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Providers  >  Health  >  Sudden Infant Death

Sudden Infant Death

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is the diagnosis given for the sudden death of an infant under one year of age for which there is no other cause determined. Because most cases of SIDS occur when a baby is sleeping in a crib, SIDS is commonly known as "crib death." Even though SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between one month and one year of age, SIDS is a rare event. Only 1.22 of 1000 infants dies of SIDS per year.


What causes SIDS?

No one knows the exact cause of SIDS, but there are many theories. Some medical evidence suggests that some SIDS babies are born with brain abnormalities that make them more vulnerable to death during infancy. Such brain abnormalities may be due to a prenatal exposure to a toxic substance or lack of sufficient oxygen. The risk of SIDS may be increased by events occurring after birth, such as lack of oxygen, exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide, or overheating. Infants can have periods of absent breathing for up to twenty seconds, which is normal. They should not turn blue, however, during this period.


What does not cause SIDS?

  • SIDS is not caused by vomiting and choking.
  • SIDS is not caused by vaccines or immunizations.
  • SIDS is not contagious.
  • SIDS is not caused by child abuse.

What are the risk factors?

  • Babies who sleep on their stomachs are more likely to die of SIDS than children who sleep on their backs.
  • Mothers who smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to have a SIDS baby.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke doubles the risk of SIDS.

How can I lower the risk of SIDS?

There is currently no way of predicting which newborns will be SIDS victims. There are a few measures parents and providers can take, however, to lower the risk of a child dying from SIDS. Here are some tips from the NYS Office of Children and Family Services:

  • Place the baby on his or her back to sleep. Infants who fall asleep on their stomachs should be gently turned onto their backs.
  • Make sure that child care providers, grandparents, babysitters and any other caregiver place the baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Place the baby to bed on a firm mattress, preferably in a safety-approved crib. Do NOT use pillows, comforters or stuffed toys in the baby's crib. Make sure that the mattress fits snuggly into the crib frame and that the crib's slats are less than 2 ½ inches apart.
  • Be careful about sleeping with infants, especially on small surfaces. A small sleeping area and the sharing of that space with one or more adults or siblings increases the risk of the infant becoming entrapped in bedding or smothered during the shifting that may occur during sleep.
  • Temperature must also be considered for the baby's comfort. Use safe sleepwear without strings or ties, making sure the baby is not over bundled. It is recommended that room temperature not be set higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Some "tummy time" during awake hours is good for the baby. This helps to strengthen the baby's neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Remember, smoking is hazardous to your health as well as to the baby's health and development.

Warning Signs -- Call a physician immediately if:

  • A baby is listless or unresponsive.
  • A baby stops breathing and turns blue or limp.
  • You have any questions or concerns, or are unsure whether a baby's symptoms are worrisome.

Click here to see this and a list of other Health and Safety Publications from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Feel free to print these tip sheets and share them with your staff and parents.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is the diagnosis given for the sudden death of an infant under one year of age for which there is no other cause determined