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What is SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)? Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death. There are typically no symptoms. Babies who die of SIDS do not appear to suffer or struggle.
What causes SIDS?

The cause of SIDS is unknown, although there are several theories. Many doctors and researchers now believe that SIDS is not a single condition that is always caused by the same medical problems, but infant death caused by several different factors. These factors may include problems with sleep arousal or an inability to sense a
build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood. Almost all SIDS deaths occur without any warning or symptoms when the infant is thought to be sleeping. SIDS is most likely to occur between 2 and 4 months of age, and 90% occur by 6 months of age. It occurs more often in winter months, with the peak in January. There is also a greater rate of SIDS among Native and African Americans.

When does SIDS typically occur? Almost all SIDS deaths occur without any warning or symptoms when the infant is thought to be sleeping. SIDS is most likely to occur between 2 and 4 months of age, and 90% occur by 6 months of age. It occurs more often in winter months, with the peak in January. There is also a greater rate of SIDS among Native and African Americans.
What other risk factors are associated with SIDS?

The following have been linked to an increased risk of SIDS:

  • Babies who sleep on their stomachs
  • Babies who are around cigarette smoke in the womb or after being born
  • Babies who sleep in the same bed as their parents
  • Babies who have soft bedding in the crib
  • Multiple birth babies (being a twin, triplet, etc.)
  • Premature babies
  • Babies who have a brother or sister who had SIDS
  • Mothers who smoke or use illegal drugs
  • Teen mothers
  • Short time period between pregnancies
  • Late or no prenatal care
  • Situations of poverty

Another significant finding related to SIDS involves the age of the mother at her first pregnancy. Regardless of what number pregnancy the SIDS case was for the mother, 100% of FIMR cases in Kalamazoo County for 1997-2000 were to mothers whose first pregnancy was as an adolescent..

What can ordinary people do to reduce SIDS?

We strongly encourage all parents and caregivers to follow these Safe Sleep guidelines and to get a copy of the Safe Sleep booklet:

Always put a baby to sleep on its BACK in a crib with a firm mattress. (This includes naps.) DO NOT put a baby to sleep on its stomach. Side sleeping is unstable and should also be avoided. Allowing the baby to roll around on its tummy while awake can prevent a flat spot (due to sleeping in one position) from forming on the back of the head.

Only put babies to sleep in a crib. NEVER allow the baby to sleep in bed with other children or adults, and do NOT put them to sleep on surfaces other than cribs, like a sofa.

Let babies sleep in the same room (NOT the same bed) as parents. If possible, babies' cribs should be placed in the parents' bedroom to allow for night-time feeding.

Avoid soft bedding materials such as waterbeds, sofas, blankets and pillows. Babies should be placed on a firm, tight-fitting crib mattress with no comforter. Do not use pillows, comforters, or quilts.

Make sure the room temperature is not too hot. The room temperature should be comfortable for a lightly-clothed adult. A baby should not be hot to the touch.

Offer the baby a pacifier when going to sleep, but never not force a baby to use a pacifier. Pacifiers at nap time and bedtime can reduce the risk of SIDS. Doctors think that a pacifier might allow the airway to open more, or prevent the baby from falling into a deep sleep. A baby that wakes up more easily may automatically move out of a dangerous position. If the baby is breastfeeding, it is best to wait until 1 month before offering a pacifier, so that it doesn’t interfere with breastfeeding.

Do not use breathing monitors or products marketed as ways to reduce SIDS. In the past, home apnea (breathing) monitors were recommended for families with a history of the condition. But research found that they had no effect, and the use of home monitors has largely stopped.

Keep your baby in a smoke-free environment.

Breastfeed your baby, if possible. Breastfeeding reduces some upper respiratory infections that may influence the development of SIDS.

NEVER give honey to a child less than 1 year old. Honey in very young children may cause infant botulism, which may be associated with SIDS.

Never let someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs care for a baby during sleep times. Know all caregivers well and make sure they understand these guidelines. If necessary, give them a copy of this list.

What should I do if I think my baby may have breathing problems or SIDS?

If your baby is not moving or breathing, begin CPR and call 911. Parents and caregivers of all infants and children should be trained in CPR. If your baby has
non-emergency breathing problems, please contact your baby's doctor immediately.

How can I learn more about Safe Sleep and SIDS?

For free information about the Safe Sleep campaign and SIDS, please contact the Kalamazoo CAN office at (269) 552-4430.

Are there any websites I can visit to learn more this? You can visit the American SIDS Institute at www.sids.org for additional information. To read a report about Safe Sleep from the Michigan Department of Community Health, click here now.