This terrible and generally inexplicable tragedy that strikes some families when they least expect it is known by several different names, such as crib death, cot death and SIDS. It refers to the sudden death of a baby under the age of one year in its sleep, hence the reference to crib or cot death.
Autopsies often find no plausible cause for the infant death, which is frustrating for both the parents and the authorities, although it is now understood that there is rarely any blame that can be attached to the parents.
Presumed Causes of SIDS
The cause of SIDS is still largely unknown. However, many doctors and medical researchers now believe that there are a number of different factors that can contribute to this event, including:
- Problems with sleep arousal, or the baby's ability to wake up
- The inability of a baby's body to detect any carbon dioxide build-up in the bloodstream
Since 1992, the rates of SIDS has dropped quite dramatically, in the main thanks to the raising of awareness of parents that they should ensure their baby sleeps on its back or on its side in the crib. However, there is still a high instance of SIDS occurring especially in babies between the ages of two to four months. Statistics show that SIDS affects more baby boys than girls and the incidence rate increases during the winter months.
Identified Factors in SIDS
Several factors have been identified as potential hazards that could lead to SIDS occurring and are as follows:
- Sleeping on the front
- Being in the presence of cigarette smoke while in the womb or after being born
- Sleeping in bed with their parents
- Soft bedding placed in the crib
- Being one of a multiple birth such as a twin or triplet
- Premature birth
- A brother or sister who suffered SIDS
- A mother who smokes or uses illegal drugs
- Having a young teenage mother
- Short gap period between pregnancies
- Prenatal care is late or non existent
- Living in a poverty situation
Many studies have been made into trying to better understand this syndrome, and results often show that babies are more likely to be affected when one or more of the above risk factors. Despite all the research into this issue, the impact or importance of each of the above factors is still not well understood.
Parents can minimize the risks to their babies by being aware of the above risk factors and avoiding them where they can. Information in this article has been researched and more information can be obtained from the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia page on sudden infant death syndrome.