Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Risk Factors

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February 15, 2010

A new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics and conducted at UMDNJ - Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center has revealed that over 96% of infants who have died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) were exposed to known risk factors, with 78% encountering multiple risk factors. SIDS, the unexpected death of an infant while asleep, is the third leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. Many studies suggest that an abnormality in the brainstem would make it more difficult for an infant to respond to breathing challenges at night. However, there is currently no clear way to identify individual at-risk infants since the biological factors are unknown. The study recommended that parents and caregivers follow these rules to lower their infant’s risk of SIDS:

  • Placing infants to sleep on their backs rather than their side or stomach
  • Making sure that there is no obstruction to the infant’s airway
  • Removing lose bedding, pillows, and toys from the crib
  • Eliminating tobacco exposure
  • Not allowing the infant sleep in the same bed as an adult (shared sleeping)

Parents should be educated about SIDS risk factors during the prenatal period, at birth, and consistently during their child’s first year of life. When caring for an infant, the following steps can also reduce the risk of SIDS:

  • Place the baby to sleep on his or her back.
  • Since the early 1990s, when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) began recommending that babies be placed on their backs to sleep, the number of SIDS fatalities has dropped by over 50 percent.
  • Make sure the baby sleeps on a firm mattress, in a safety-approved crib. Soft mattresses, sofas, water beds, sheepskins or other soft sleeping surfaces increase the risk of SIDS.
  • Make sure the baby’s head and face stay uncovered during sleep. If you do use a blanket, keep it away from the baby’s mouth and nose. To use a blanket, make sure the baby’s feet are at the bottom of the crib, that the blanket is no higher than the baby’s chest, and the blanket is