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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

What is SIDS?

Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is the sudden unexplained death of a baby under age 1. SIDS is the most common cause of death in babies in the United States between 1 month and 1 year of age. Most deaths from SIDS are in babies over 21 days and under 6 months of age.

How does it occur?

The causes of SIDS are not known. SIDS happens during sleep. Sleeping face down increases the risk for SIDS. Babies exposed to cigarette smoke also have an increased risk for SIDS.

How can I avoid SIDS?

Avoid the risks associated with SIDS:

  • Be sure you put your baby to sleep on his or her back.
  • Have your baby sleep in a crib specifically designed for infants.
  • Do not use soft bedding material for your baby.
  • Do not place soft items (such as pillows and stuffed animals) in your baby's crib.
  • Do not use loose blankets or other covers in your baby's crib. If you do use a blanket, tuck it in so that your baby's face will not be covered. Never allow your sleeping baby's head to be covered with a blanket (or comforter or quilt).
  • Do not sleep with your young infant. Babies can be brought into bed for comforting or nursing, but should be returned to their crib when you are ready to go back to sleep.
  • Do not overheat your baby's room. The room temperature should be comfortable for an adult wearing light clothing. Your baby should not feel hot to the touch and should never be sweating while asleep.
  • If you smoke cigarettes, try to quit, especially if you are pregnant.
  • If anyone else takes care of your child, be sure they are aware of the recommendations noted above.

Pacifiers have been associated with a lower risk for SIDS. Breast-fed babies between 1 month and 1 year old should be allowed to use pacifiers during naps and at bedtime. Babies below the age of 1 month who are not breast-fed may also use pacifiers. It is not necessary to replace a pacifier once your baby has fallen asleep and you should not force your baby to use a pacifier if he or she refuses.

When should I call my child's health care provider?

Call 911 immediately if your baby is not breathing or looks blue.

Where can I find out more?

For more information about SIDS contact:

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Alliance
1314 Bedford Ave. Ste. 210
Baltimore, MD 21208

Written by William J. Muller, MD.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2005-11-01
Last reviewed: 2006-10-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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