How To Understand the Causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is defined as the unexplained death of a child up to a year old who had no detrimental health conditions. Although classifying an infant's death as SIDS is done by ruling out other possible causes, there are some factors that can contribute to SIDS. Understanding the possible causes will help you to minimize the chances of tragedy. Here are some of the most well-known and documented causes of SIDS:

  1. Mothers who did not receive proper prenatal care have an increased chance of losing a child to SIDS. It is vital to get your baby off to the best possible start by assuring that your prenatal care is consistent. Attend all scheduled prenatal medical appointments and try to heed your doctor's advice regarding nutrition, exercise, rest, and exposure to toxins.
  2. Mothers who smoke during pregnancy put their child at risk for SIDS. In addition to the obvious health hazards for the mother, babies of smoking mothers have a three times greater chance of dying from SIDS than those born to non-smoking mothers.
  3. Although the reason is unclear, there is evidence to suggest that breastfeeding your baby provides her with a level of protection from SIDS. If at all possible, try to breastfeed, at least for the first few months.
  4. Placing an infant on his tummy to sleep increases his chances of dying from SIDS. Always lay babies down on their backs and use a device (sold at most stores that sell baby bedding) to keep him from rolling onto his side, if necessary. Until babies are old enough to roll over on their own (typically 4-7 months), they cannot lift their heads properly to assure that they get sufficient fresh air--this is one of the most common and most easily preventable causes of SIDS.
  5. Although it can be tempting for exhausted new parents to bring their baby into bed with them, experts disagree about the safety of co-sleeping with your infant. Some believe that with a non-smoking and completely sober parent, babies are safe, while others discourage co-sleeping under any circumstances.
  6. When selecting your baby's crib, remember that it must be free of pillows, blankets, and stuffed toys. A crib mattress should be flat and firm. If you choose to use bumpers, be absolutely certain that they are firmly attached to the crib rails and that they are allow for adequate air flow.
  7. Babies who use a pacifier have a lower incidence of SIDS, so allowing your child to love his "binky" is a healthy choice. When laying him down to sleep, place the pacifier in his mouth, but there is no need to replace it if it falls out of your baby's mouth while he is sleeping.

  8. Becoming overheated puts a baby at risk for SIDS. There is no need to bundle a baby for sleeping; in fact to do so is risky. Simply choose light clothing and keep the room at a comfortable, but not too hot, temperature. If you are comfortable in the room, it will be just fine for your baby, too.

  9. Babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke are twice as likely to succumb to SIDS as those who live in a smoke-free environment. Do not smoke around your baby and insist that caregivers and other visitors do the same.
  10. Babies who do not receive regular well-baby care have a higher incidence of SIDS. Establishing routine medical care for your child, as well as seeking medical advice when she is ill, lowers the chances of losing her to SIDS.


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