bamama is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: What Is It?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome What Is It

SIDS may be the biggest nightmare for us parents.

In the Philippines, SIDS is a relatively uncommon cause of infant death. But it’s terrifying to think that the syndrome might impact our children. 

Although we don’t know why SIDS occurs, it may be linked to problems in the part of your baby’s brain that regulates breathing and waking up from sleep.

By learning more about it and implementing some safety measures, you can lower your baby’s risk of SIDS. Learn more by reading on.

SIDS Explained

SIDS Explained

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a catch-all moniker for unforeseen fatalities of newborns below one year of age.

Most SIDS deaths are linked to sleep, occasionally called “crib death.” Although the precise cause of SIDS is uncertain, several likely factors exist. 

The newborn typically appears healthy, and the death is unexpected. SIDS affects infants more exposed to certain environmental stresses and happens at a specific developmental time.

Premature birth, low birth weight, and other unidentified factors can all heighten your little one’s risk.

Environmental stresses include cigarette smoke, becoming tangled in bedding, a short illness, or a breathing blockage. It’s also been linked to sleeping with your infant on a couch or chair.

The heart, breathing, and body temperatures of babies who die from SIDS are considered unusual, and they can also show involuntary reactions to these stimuli.

If the baby’s death is still not fully understood, even after an autopsy and examining your baby’s clinical history, the cause of death is diagnosed as SIDS.

SUDI

Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy is a more general term for unexpected baby deaths (as opposed to unexplained). 

SUDI also includes infants who pass away unexpectedly but whose reasons for death are later determined to be an infection, neurological abnormalities, heart dysfunction, etc.

It ranks among the most known causes of newborn death in the age range of 1 month to one year between two and four months.

QUICK TIP: Consult your pediatrician if your baby sleeps so much that she isn’t waking up every two to four hours to eat. If your baby is three weeks old or younger and doesn’t get up independently, you must feed her several times at night.

Risk Factors for SIDS

Risk Factors for SIDS

Since the cause of SIDS usually can’t be identified, it’s a perplexing syndrome. But there are some risk factors. The following things can raise a baby’s risk of dying from SIDS:

  • Gender Boys are at a somewhat increased risk of SIDS.
  • Age A baby’s second and fourth months are extremely risky.
  • Racial Background Newborn babies of color have a higher risk of SIDS than newborn babies of white parents for unknown reasons.
  • Family History Babies are more likely to experience SIDS if their siblings or cousins have also died from SIDS.
  • Smoking Parents Babies whose parents smoke are more likely to experience SIDS.
  • Premature Birth If your child was both born early and with low birth weight, they have an increased risk of dying from SIDS.

Further SIDS risk factors are detailed below:

Prenatal Smoking and Drinking

If you’re a smoker, the following information might convince you to give up cigarettes: Infants born to moms who smoke while pregnant suffer SIDS three times more often than kids born to non-smoking mothers.

Smoking during pregnancy increases the chance of your child dying of SIDS. It’s best to stop smoking for your and your child’s health. 

Exposure to secondhand smoke is another risk factor for SIDS. In my case, I keep all smoking away from my children.

Ask guests to smoke outside and change their clothes before they hold your child. Avoid bringing your child into smokey areas.

Check Your Baby’s Sleep Environment

A baby’s medical issues, the items in their crib, and how the child sleeps can all contribute to an increased risk of SIDS. Here are some examples:

  • Side or Stomach SleepingNewborns who sleep in these positions might have greater breathing issues than babies who sleep on their backs.
  • Rolling Face-Down – If your baby is placed face-down on a soft mattress, waterbed, or plush blanket, their airway can become obstructed.
  • Shared Beds – Being in the same area as their parents while napping reduces an infant’s risk of SIDS, but sleeping with their parents, siblings, or pets increases that risk.
  • Overheating – If a baby overheats while sleeping, the risk of SIDS may rise.

Ensure your baby’s cot, mattress, and bedding meet safety and compliance standards. The mattress needs to be clean, flat, and firm. 

Ensure your child can’t become trapped between the cot’s sides and mattress. Remove the following items from your infant’s crib:

  • Pillows
  • Squishy toys
  • Doonas or quilts
  • Bumpers

GOOD TO KNOW: When you notice sleep cues in babies or toddlers, it’s time to put them to bed. Some sleep cues include Jerky limb motions, grizzling, and clinginess.

How to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

How to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

Though there’s no foolproof method to stop SIDS, you can help your baby sleep more securely with these tips:

  • Let the little ones sleep in your room 
  • Lay them down on a solid sleeping surface, like a firm cot mattress covered with a fitted sheet
  • Hand your infant a pacifier
  • Ensuring your baby doesn’t overheat as he falls asleep
  • Lay your infant on his back to sleep

I’ll further break down these tips:

Sleep in the Same Room as Them

A baby’s risk of SIDS is reduced when they nap in the same room as their parents. However, ensure they’re separated from you when it’s time to sleep. 

The same bed, another adult’s arms, an armchair, or a couch are all unsafe places for a baby to sleep. If you nurse or soothe your baby in bed, return the child to their cradle, bassinet, or crib for bedtime. 

Avoid nursing or letting your baby sleep while seated if you’re exhausted or taking sleeping medicine since you might nod off.

A newborn can suffocate or get stuck between the headboard slats, the mattress and the bed frame, or the mattress and the wall. 

Never let your child sleep on a pillow, sofa, bean bag, or waterbed. A sleeping parent who rolls over and covers the infant’s mouth and nose risks suffocating the youngster.

Your newborn should sleep in a crib or bassinet in your room alone for no less than six months and ideally up to a year. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Babies are biologically designed to sleep while nursing. Cholecystokinin, or CCK, is the main factor contributing to sleep at the breast. CCK causes your baby to feel full and tired.

Firm Crib Mattress

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is likelier if your baby sleeps on a soft mattress. 

Since soft mattresses can contour themselves to your baby’s head or face, they can result in suffocation and even death if your infant rolls over onto their stomach

Babies are immobile for the first two to three months. Always place your infant on a firm mattress or surface in a crib or bassinet to avoid smothering or asphyxiation. 

Don’t put blankets, cushions, stuffed animals, or crib bumpers in your baby’s crib; just a fitted sheet.

Soft mattresses may also leave gaps between the mattress edge and the crib’s frame, potentially harming your little one. 

Firm mattresses ensure protection and lower the risk of SIDS.

Give Your Baby a Pacifier

Sucking on a pacifier without a strap or string during routine sleep and naptime for the first year of life is advised and may lower the risk of SIDS.

What makes pacifiers such a good influence? It’s unclear, but it might be because pacifiers help newborns wake up if they have difficulty breathing. 

A pacifier also prevents the tongue from blocking the airway by holding it forward in the mouth. But experts also emphasize using pacifiers responsibly to prevent potential side effects. 

If breastfeeding your baby, wait until your child is 3-4 weeks old and you’ve established a nursing schedule before giving them a pacifier. 

The pacifier shouldn’t be covered in sugar. It’s important to clean and replace pacifiers regularly. Do not push the pacifier on your infant if they are uninterested. 

Don’t put the pacifier back in your child’s mouth if it comes out while asleep.

TIP: If your baby falls asleep during a bottle feeding, place them over your shoulder and touch their head, legs, and tummy. It can assist your infant in waking up. If that doesn’t work, changing your baby’s diaper can help.

Avoid Overheating

Dress your baby in airy, cozy sleepwear and ensure the room’s temperature is at an adult-comfortable level to reduce the risk of SIDS. 

Overheating can increase a baby’s risk of dying from SIDS. If the temperature is too hot, your infant may feel uneasy, have trouble sleeping, and develop a rash. 

Wearing a onesie or putting your child in a sleep sack will help keep your baby warm

Use a special blanket instead since an ordinary blanket can entangle your baby or suffocate them if they pull it over their face.

If your baby’s neck, back, or tummy is sweaty or warm to the touch, this is a sign that they’re overheating

Avoid performing the ‘touch test’ on a baby’s hands and feet since they frequently feel cooler than the rest of their body and provide an erroneous body temperature reading.

Back-Sleeping

Any time your infant sleeps on their side or stomach, their risk of SIDS increases significantly. 

These sleeping positions put your child’s face in the mattress, which can smother them (a baby placed on their side can turn over on their stomach).

Always lay your baby down on their back when putting them to bed, whether for naps, at night, or any other time. 

Never allow children to nap for an extended period in a swing, baby seat, stroller, or car seat. Lift them and place them on a stable bed or other flat surface.

Tell anybody who looks after your infant how important it is always to lay them on their back when sleeping. Notify your parents, older siblings, babysitters, and other childcare providers. 

You shouldn’t be concerned that your infant might suffocate when lying on their back. Choking is extremely uncommon; healthy infants automatically swallow or cough fluids. 

Ask your pediatrician about raising the head of your baby’s bed if you have any concerns.

Your baby might not stay on their back once he can roll over in both directions, which often happens around six months. It’s alright. 

Flat Head Syndrome

You may worry about your child developing a flat head. A flat head may result if your infant lies in the same position for extended periods.

You can take the following measures to put a stop to flathead development:

  • When you place your infant in their cot, lean their head to the left or right
  • Keep your infant seated for a short time
  • When your child is awake, give them tummy time in increasing amounts

To assist in adjusting your child’s head position, try these:

  • Your infant is at various ends of their cot
  • Alter the posture of their cot
  • Place toys or mobiles in various locations to grab their interest

NOTE: Babies may roll over in the crib while sleeping. If you see this happening, roll your newborn back onto their back. Do this for the first year or until your child can roll over independently.

Theories on What Causes SIDS

Theories on What Causes SIDS

Many physicians and researchers think SIDS relates to the baby’s ability to wake up, recognize low oxygen levels, or identify a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. 

Babies who sleep face down may breathe in their carbon dioxide. Rising carbon dioxide levels cause brainstem nerve cells to fire, stimulating the brain’s respiratory and arousal areas. 

The infant then awakens, turns his head, and starts breathing more quickly to take in more oxygen. However, some SIDS infants may not rouse.

The “Triple-Risk Model” for SIDS has been put forth to describe how the condition develops. According to the model, SIDS happens when all three of the following are true at once:

  • The baby’s brainstem or other underlying problem prevents him from responding to low oxygen or high carbon dioxide blood levels.
  • A triggering event, such as lying face down on one’s stomach, is shown to the newborn.
  • These incidents occur in the infant’s first six months when development is most sensitive.

TIP: It’s okay to let your baby scream if they don’t appear sick and you’ve tried everything to comfort them. You can try leaving your infant alone in a safe setting, such as a crib, for 10 to 15 minutes. Many babies need to cry before they can be put down to sleep. And if you let them cry, they’ll sleep sooner.

What Age Range Is in Danger of SIDS?

Although SIDS can happen anytime during a baby’s first year, most SIDS deaths happen to babies between the age bracket of one and four months.

Although SIDS is less common after 8 months, parents should continue using safe sleeping practices until their child’s first birthday to lower the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths.

How Likely Is SIDS?

When food or liquid gets into children’s lungs, they can choke. SIDS may happen when kids are placed on their backs and left unsupervised. 

In the Philippines, SIDS seldom results in a child’s death. Small children or premature babies that are left unattended are typically the victims of SIDS. 

Since they can’t lift their heads, especially if they’ve recently been fed, avoid placing a child under the age of a year on their back. 

Pediatricians also caution parents against giving gelatin to their young children. That’s because babies cannot chew properly. Sometimes when they swallow, the gelatin enters their lungs instead of their stomach. 

Conclusion

A SIDS death is a tragedy that impacts the family and other people. A death of a newborn that occurs abruptly and unexpectedly must be looked into to determine how and why it occurred. 

Be attentive and prepare your baby’s sleeping area to help prevent SIDS. The risk of SIDS is highest when your little one is under a year old, but it will improve as they grow older.

Even though SIDS can’t be explained, it can be prevented by being careful. Help your little one get over this hurdle by keeping them safe!

Nayna Llenos
Nayna Llenos

Hi, I’m Nayna!
I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and I’m lucky and blessed to have two wonderful children to care for and love.
Despite this blessing, there are times wherein I do wonder if I truly am the mother my children need. Am I giving them the right food, care, and discipline to them?
But that is the beauty of parenting — you grow along with your children as they flourish to be their wonderful selves!
I wish to share my experiences with motherhood and how these tips can help you in your parenting journey.
I hope my advices and experiences will prove useful to you and that you have a smooth and wonderful journey as a mother!