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What is SIDS and What Causes it

Updated on November 9, 2009
Photo courtesy SIDS network
Photo courtesy SIDS network

SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome) or Cot Death as it is also known is a fear that plagues nearly all new parents as a potential threat to the life of their new baby. SIDS is where the infant is found dead after having been put to bed, and exhibits no signs of having suffered. There is still very little known about SIDS and exactly why it is caused; however the infant’s age, gender, race, neonatal history and sleep environment are considered possible influencing factors.

SIDS is the third most prominent cause of death among infants under a year old, accounting for 30-55 percent of infant deaths during their first year. Statistics show that SIDS was responsible for 0.543 deaths per 1,000 live births in the U.S. in 2005. It is responsible for far fewer deaths than congenital disorders and disorders related to short gestation, though it is the leading cause of death in healthy infants after one month of age.

Since SIDS is still such an unknown factor, it is parents who suffer the tragic loss of a child from SIDS suffer not only deed grief and loss but also a sense of guilt and are left wondering if they were, in some way responsible or if there was something that they could have done to prevent their child dying.

Some undiagnosed conditions that could cause SIDS are:

  • medium-chain acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase deficiency (MCAD deficiency),
  • infant botulism
  • long QT syndrome;
  • infections with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori;
  • Shaken baby syndrome and other forms of child abuse

There are many prenatal factors that can cause of contribute to SIDS, such as maternal nicotine use, inadequate prenatal care, inadequate prenatal nutrition, use of heroin, subsequent births less than one year apart, alcohol use, infant being overweight, mother being overweight, Teen pregnancy (if the baby has a teen mother, it has a greater risk).

Post natal factors could include growth of mold in the baby’s vicinity, low birth weight, exposure to tobacco smoke, sleeping position (rate of SIDS decreased considerably after parents started to follow a recommendation that children be placed on their backs to sleep rather than on their stomachs), not breastfeeding, high temperature of the room, suffocation from excess bedding, type of bedding, stuffed toys, premature birth, anemia and premature birth.

The SIDS Network is an information website that offers more information about SIDS as well as support for SIDS sufferers, where one can show support by making a donation.


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    • Reena Daruwalla profile image

      Reena Daruwalla 8 years ago from INDIA

      Yes they are. SIDS happens up to 2 years of age.

    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 8 years ago from India

      seriously scary...boss i hope our kids are past the risk stage?

    • andromida profile image

      syras mamun 8 years ago

      Very informative article.I was not knowing that exposure to tobacco smoke can cause infant death.