Causes and prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

A new parent’s worst nightmare is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It happens when an apparently healthy baby suddenly dies, usually during sleep. SIDS is the leading cause of infant deaths all over the world and no exact cause has been found to-date.

Possible causes for SIDS

Some specialists argue that some babies have a harder time regulating their breathing pattern. One theory proposes that SIDS has to do with the position that infants sleep in – sideways or on the belly, both of which might lead to difficulty in breathing. The syndrome has also been associated with cold weather or extreme heat, which could be due to an inability to regulate temperature in some infants.

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Some risk factors associated with SIDS include:

  • SIDS affects more boys than girls
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke (during and after pregnancy)
  • Low birth weight
  • Mothers less than 20 years of age
  • Winter time (cold weather)
  • Less prevalent in Asians
  • More frequent in underprivileged families (perhaps to due poor nutrition)
  • Premature birth

As the baby’s brain develops after birth, the risk of sudden death reduces dramatically. Two to four month old babies are at most risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Out of all risk factors, smoking during pregnancy could increase the risk of SIDS the most. Babies that have not been exposed to such toxic substances in utero have a much lower risk of sudden death.

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Find out how to prevent SIDS on the next page…