Specialties & Services

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is an unexplained death, typically during sleep, of a child under one year of age.

Cause of SIDs

The exact cause is unknown, though research suggests that SIDS may be due in part to defects of the area of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep. Ultimately, there are a combination of physical and environmental factors that influence SIDS.

Physical factors include:

  • Brain defects
  • Low birth weight
  • Respiratory infection

Environmental factors include:

  • Sleeping on the stomach or side rather than on the back
  • Sleeping on a soft surface
  • Overheating
  • Sharing a bed

Other Risk Factors

In addition to the aforementioned factors that impact a child’s likelihood to die of SIDS, there are several other aspects of an infant that make them statistically more vulnerable such as:

  • Age – children are particularly susceptible between the second and fourth months of life
  • Sex – males are more likely to die of SIDS
  • Race – ethnic infants tend to develop SIDS more often than white infants
  • Prematurity
  • Family History – those with family members who have died from SIDS are more likely to die from SIDS themselves
  • Secondhand Smoke

The mother can also have a significant impact on her baby’s vulnerability to SIDS during pregnancy. SIDS is especially dangerous when a mother who is under 20 years of age, smokes, uses drugs or alcohol, or has had inadequate prenatal care.

Prevention

SIDS is impossible to prevent, but there are a few steps that you as a parent can take to lower your infant’s risk. We suggest following these safety tips:

  • Place your baby on their back to sleep
  • Use a firm mattress in your infant’s crib
  • Reduce the amount of items in the crib
  • Avoid overheating
  • Place the child’s crib in your room for 6 months to a year
  • Offer your infant a pacifier without a strap
  • Breastfeed for 6 months or more

More Information From Your Pediatric Pulmonologist

For more information about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and how you can take steps to lower your baby’s risk, please call our Pediatric and Adolescent Sleep Center in Fairfax, Virgnia at (703) 226-2290.