Sudden Infant Death Syndrome | Facts about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome | Prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome | SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden infant death syndrome is defined as "The sudden death of an infant under one year of age”.

Although the cause or causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) remain unknown, the premature infant is at increased risk to die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Facts About Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Only one factor has been reliably associated with risk for premature infant, and that is gestational age. This has been true in all studies reporting weeks of gestation, and the association is inversely proportional.

The shorter the gestational interval, the more immature the infant is at birth. The more immature the infant, the higher the risk is that the infant will die of sudden infant death syndrome.

Several other important factors associated with an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome are side infant sleeping positions, exposure of infants to cigarette smoke and potentially hazardous sleeping environments.

Both stomach and side sleeping were strongly associated with an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome. When these sleeping positions were combined with other risk factors, the incidence of death by sudden infant death syndrome increased significantly.

Prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: What to Tell Parents

The major prevention sudden infant death syndrome measures supported by available scientific research are (1) having healthy babies sleep in the supine position; (2) not exposing babies to cigarette smoking, either during pregnancy or after birth; (3) making the sleeping environment as safe as possible (4) breast feeding and (5) Infant Home Monitoring

1. Sleeping Position:

Available data indicate that the prone (on the stomach) sleeping position is associated with the highest risk of sudden infant death syndrome ; the supine, or back, position, is associated with the lowest risk. Basically, "back is best" from a sudden infant death syndrome risk-reduction point of view.

The mechanisms by which the prone sleeping position might lead to sudden infant death syndrome are not known. Studies suggest that the prone sleeping position may increase sudden infant death syndrome risk by increasing the probability that the baby re-breathes his or her own expired gas, leading to carbon dioxide build-up and low oxygen levels; by causing upper airway obstruction; by interfering with body heat dissipation, leading to overheating; and by a variety of other proposed mechanisms.

2. Cigarette Smoke Exposure:

Stay smoke-free. It should be illegal to smoke around children for the first two years. Smoking during pregnancy exposes the developing fetus to toxins and other potentially harmful effects of cigarette smoke.

Several studies have found that nursing mothers who smoke, and caregivers who expose babies to cigarette smoke, increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

3. Potentially Hazardous Sleeping Environments:

The sleeping environment also appears to be linked to sudden infant death syndrome in some cases. As many as, 30 percent of deaths diagnosed as SIDS related, in the past have been related to unsafe sleeping environments or unsafe bedding material.

Soft mattresses, pillows and other bedding material can be hazardous and may be associated with infant deaths diagnosed as sudden infant death syndrome. Recommendations include making sure that the crib is in good working order with no missing or broken parts. The crib should be in proper position and in proper size.

Finally, because of the potential hazards of overheating, it is generally recommended that for sleep, a baby should be lightly dressed and covered with a sheet or thin blanket, and the room temperature should be such that it would be comfortable for an adult in a short-sleeve shirt.

4. Breast feeding:

Breast-feed your baby. Several research studies have found that, in 74 percent of sudden infant death syndrome cases, the infants were never breast-fed. Breast-feeding for at least six months is recommended; one year is ideal.

Breast feeding offers many potential physiologic and psychological benefits to mother and infant and is, in general, preferable to bottle feeding and recommended.

5. Infant Home Monitoring:

Home monitoring in the past had little effect on the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome, most likely because, for the most part, subgroups with the wrong risk factors were being monitored.

Studies of signs and symptoms preceding sudden infant death syndrome have shown chat over 90 percent of parents of sudden infant death syndrome victims had not observed the infant turn blue or stop breathing before death.

In addition to risk reduction measures, you can follow other recommendations of child-care experts for protecting your baby's overall health:

  • Begin prenatal care as soon as you know that you're pregnant.
  • Be sure to visit your doctor regularly.


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