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SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which is the name for what happens when a baby dies for no clear reason. It's most likely to happen during the first three months of a baby's life. We don’t really know what causes SIDS to happen, but we do know that certain factors can increase the risk.

What is SIDS?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a diagnosis that's made when an apparently healthy baby dies unexpectedly, and for no clear reason.

When does SIDS happen?

SIDS most often occurs when a baby is thought to be sleeping. This is most likely to be at night, but it could happen at any time of the day, such as during a daytime nap. It could happen in a cot, a pram, family bed, cradle or even in their parent's arms.

SIDS is more common in winter, and tends to increase in particularly cold months. This could be because infections increase at this time of the year. It could also be because parents use extra bedclothes or put the room heater or blower on at night when it's cold outside. If your baby is wearing warm clothing and you also have the heating on in your room it can get very hot for him.

Physical factors

Physical factors associated with SIDS include:

Brain abnormalities - Some infants are born with problems that make them more likely to die of SIDS. In many of these babies, the portion of the brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep doesn't work properly.

Low birth weight - Premature birth or being part of a multiple birth increases the likelihood that a baby's brain hasn't matured completely, so he or she has less control over such automatic processes as breathing and heart rate.

Respiratory infection - Many infants who died of SIDS had recently had a cold, which may contribute to breathing problems.

Sleep environmental factors

The items in a baby's crib and his or her sleeping position can combine with a baby's physical problems to increase the risk of SIDS. Examples include:

Sleeping on the stomach or side - Babies who are placed on their stomachs or sides to sleep may have more difficulty breathing than those placed on their backs.

Sleeping on a soft surface - Lying face down on a fluffy comforter or a waterbed can block an infant's airway. Draping a blanket over a baby's head also is risky.

Sleeping with parents - While the risk of SIDS is lowered if an infant sleeps in the same room as his or her parents, the risk increases if the baby sleeps in the same bed — partly because there are more soft surfaces to impair breathing.

How to Prevent SIDS: Safety Tips


  • Always put your baby to sleep on his back.

  • Use a pacifier at sleep time.

  • Try swaddling your child.

  • Have her sleep in a crib in your room.

  • Make sure the crib mattress is firm and tight-fitting.


  • Put blankets or toys in her crib.

  • Smoke while pregnant, and don't allow anyone to smoke around your infant.

  • Put your baby to sleep on his side.

  • Share your bed with your baby.

  • Overdress your child or put his crib near a heat source.

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