SIDS Risk: Causes, Risk Factors & Prevention

image001Are you worried about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, otherwise known as SIDS? If so, you aren’t alone. Many new parents are very worried about this happening to their child. But it is very important to remember that the number of children who die of SIDS is very, very small. For even more peace of mind, there are many things you can do to decrease the risk of SIDS for your baby. Here’s what you can do to reduce the chances.

What Is SIDS?

Sudden infant death syndrome is also known as crib death. It happens when a healthy baby dies suddenly, with no apparent reason. Though doctor and investigators do what they can to determine what happened, the fact is that SIDS often occurs with no clear reason or cause. In less than half of all cases, a health condition, illness or accident is found to be the cause, but that means that over 50% of cases have no explanation. It is rare, but it is still the most common cause of death in healthy newborn babies.

Why and When Does SIDS Occur?

Understanding why it happens and when it is most likely to occur can help give new parents peace of mind. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Why Does SIDS Occur?

Unfortunately, no one knows why SIDS happens. It could be a combination of factors that happen to collide during the time when the baby is young and vulnerable. Some babies might have a problem with the part of the brain that controls their breathing, and that means that if the baby’s breathing is restricted, it might not respond in time. But even that is a theory, no one knows for sure what happens.

2. When Does It Occur?

SIDS happens when a baby is thought to be asleep. They simply fall asleep and don’t wake up. It might happen at night, during a daytime nap and even while asleep in the parent’s arms. It is more common during the winter, but no one knows for sure why that is.

About 90 percent of SIDS cases occur during the first six months. As the baby grows older, the risk diminishes dramatically. By the time the child is one year old, the risk of SIDS is virtually gone.

What Are the Risk Factors for SIDS?

Remember that the exact cause of SIDS is unknown, so few risk factors have been identified. However, doctors do know that babies who are born prematurely or have a very low birth weight are more likely to die of SIDS. Other risk factors include a mother who is under the age of 20, several siblings who are close in age, and babies who have had an apparent life-threatening event, such as requiring resuscitation at some point in their young lives.

Certain ethnic backgrounds are also a risk factor. SIDS is more common among African-Americans and American Indians, but lowest among Asians and Hispanics. And no matter the ethnicity, it seems being a boy puts the baby at a higher risk.

How to Reduce the SIDS Risks

There are many things parents can do to help reduce the SIDS risk for their child. Here are some of the best practices and techniques:

Ways to Reduce Sids Risks


Place your baby to sleep on their back

Always lay your baby down on his back to sleep. This prevents him from rolling over or otherwise becoming tangled in bedding. Don’t put your baby to sleep on his stomach, even once–the risk of SIDS is even greater when the baby is put on his stomach after becoming accustomed to sleeping on his back.

Always use a firm bed

Never use any soft toys or bedding in the crib, no matter how tempting it might be. Soft bedding has been linked to an increase in SIDS as it might suffocate the baby. Make sure the mattress is firm and never use pillows.

Don’t smoke near the baby

Babies in homes where someone smokes, or babies who are born to women who smoked during pregnancy, have a much higher risk-three times higher than those babies who have never been exposed to cigarette smoke. Never let anyone smoke around your child.

Rooming-sharing, but not co-sleeping

It’s great to let your baby sleep in your room, as it reduces the SIDS risk. But never let your child sleep with you in bed, or in bed with another child. Never put your child on an armchair, couch or other plush area to sleep. Always put the baby in his own cradle, crib or bassinet.

Keep up your baby’s immunization

Make sure to get your baby immunized when the time comes. Those who are fully immunized have a 50% lower chance of SIDS than those who have not had their vaccines.

Offer a pacifier for sleep

Does your baby love a pacifier when sleeping? Good! Using a pacifier while sleeping can reduce the risk of SIDS. If the pacifier falls from their mouth, it’s okay. Remember to get your baby used to breastfeeding first before using a pacifier.

Do breastfeed your baby

The longer a woman breastfeeds, the more security the baby has against SIDS. Experts aren’t sure why, but it seems that breast milk protects babies from infections and other health problems that might increase SIDS risk. Remember not to drink alcohol while breastfeeding because that actually increases the risk.

Don’t use products that claim to reduce the SIDS risk

There are many products out there that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS, but keep in mind that most these don’t really work. This is true for more expensive things too, such as cardiac monitors and electric respirators.

Keep having tummy time

Your baby still needs to have time on his tummy, so be sure to put him on his tummy to play when he’s awake. This can help the baby strengthen his neck, shoulder and arm muscles. You can also try holding the baby upright, but limit the time in carriers and bouncers which might lead to flat spots on the back of the baby’s head.

Keep a healthy lifestyle for both of you

When you are pregnant, make sure to keep all your prenatal visits. Never use drugs and alcohol during your pregnancy. Speak to your doctor about the changes in your body. When your baby is born, keep all appointments and talk to your doctor about how your baby acts.

Share these tips

It is important that everyone who cares for your baby knows about these tips, so that you can be assured of the utmost safety for your little one. Tell grandparents, siblings, babysitters, and anyone else how to lower the risk of SIDS.

For more on the latest recommendations about SIDS, check out the video: