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What is SIDS

Updated on July 3, 2014

What is SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome?

What is SIDS is often one of the first questions a new expectant mom may have. SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, is the sudden and unexplained death of an otherwise healthy baby. Typically a baby that passes away as a result of SIDS was put to bed with their normal bedtime routine and then discovered lifeless by the parents in the morning. SIDS is very scary to new parents. I know the possibility of losing one of my own babies to SIDS was my biggest fear for the first two years of each of their lives. I checked on them often throughout the night just to make sure they were breathing.

Here you will learn what SIDS is, the risk factors of SIDS, potential causes of SIDS, and the statistics of SIDS.

Image: My third baby at one day old.

SIDS Statistics - SIDS facts and statistics

  • SIDS occurs in 1.4 out of every 1,000 live births.
  • Boy babies are more likely to die of SIDS than girl babies.
  • SIDS usually occurs between the ages of 1 to 4 months.
  • SIDS accounts for the deaths of close to 3,000 babies in the US each year.
  • SIDS is the leading killer among healthy babies over 1 month old.
  • Approximately 9 infants die each day of SIDS.

What is SIDS?

What is sudden infant death syndrome?

SIDS is a heartbreaking experience for any parent. SIDS is a mysterious condition that claims the lives of nearly 3,000 babies in the United States alone each year. SIDS only affects healthy babies, which makes it such a shock to the parents who lose their babies to this very scary and very real condition.

So little is known about SIDS even today because when a baby passes from sudden infant death syndrome, no cause of death can be found even in a very extensive autopsy. Many doctors explain SIDS to parents who lose a baby to it by saying one minute you have a healthy baby and the next you have a healthy dead baby.

Not knowing the exact cause of SIDS and knowing it affects healthy babies, makes it the source of a lot of anxiety for many new parents. It is common for moms and dads to constantly check on a sleeping baby to ensure they are still breathing. Many moms choose to co-sleep with their babies or to place them in a bassinet next to their bed so that they can keep a close watch.

Image: Stuart Miles /

SIDS Risk Factors - Risk factors of sudden infant death syndrome

While not a lot is known about SIDS, the medical community has been able to identify clear risk factors. The following factors greatly increase a baby's chances of dying from sudden infant death syndrome.

  1. Teenage pregnancy - A teenage mother is much more likely to lose her baby to SIDS than a mother over the age of 20.
  2. Lack of prenatal care - A mother who does not receive adequate prenatal care throughout her pregnancy is more likely to lose her baby to SIDS than a mom who received quality prenatal care.
  3. Cigarettes - Not only is a baby more likely to die of SIDS if his mother smoked while she was pregnant, but second hand smoke in the home after the baby is born also increases the risk for SIDS.
  4. Low birth weight - Babies who have a birth weight under 7 lbs are more likely to die of SIDS than babies who are born weighing more than 7 lbs. This is one reason why it's critical that a pregnant woman carry her baby as close to full term as possible.
  5. Extreme temperatures - A baby is more sensitive to hot and cold than an adult or even older child. If a baby's sleep environment is either too hot or too cold, the risk of SIDS is greatly increased.

My Son at 1 Week Old
My Son at 1 Week Old

SIDS Causes

Causes of SIDS

While there is still so much to learn about sudden infant death syndrome, the medical community does have several hypotheses as to what causes SIDS.

Bacterial Infection

The newest hypothesis as to a possible cause for SIDS was released on May 29, 2008 in a British study. This study found that common bacterial infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus (staph) and Escherichia coli (E. coli) seem to be present in many cases of SIDS. The idea of a bacterial infection causing SIDS is logical since it occurs most often between the ages of 1 to 4 months, when the baby is starting to lose the mom's antibodies that he gained in the womb but has yet to develop antibodies of his own.

Brain Disorders

Some babies who have died of SIDS have been reported to have abnormalities in their medulla oblongata. This defect causes disturbances in the brain's receptors for serotonin, which affects the baby's sleep cycles and controls important functions like breathing, blood pressure, and waking. This type of brain disorder eventually corrects itself sometime after the first year, explaining why SIDS only affects infants. Furthermore, boys naturally have fewer serotonin receptors than girls, which also helps to explain why boy babies are more likely to die of SIDS than girl babies. If this abnormality of the medulla oblongata is in fact the cause of SIDS, the risk can be decreased sightly by having a baby sleep on an incline (like with a reflux wedge) up until the baby starts to roll over.


There is clearly a genetic factor related to the incidence of SIDS. If a baby dies of SIDS, his future siblings are more likely to also dies of SIDS than a baby born into a family with no cases of SIDS. SIDS has been shown to run in families, though doctors are not yet sure what factors in a family's DNS contribute to this.

Child Abuse

It is now believed that anywhere from 5% to 20% of past infant deaths that were ruled as SIDS were actually the result of child abuse. SIDS used to be the common ruling of an unexpected infant death without performing an autopsy.

Image: My second baby at two weeks old.

Baby Products that Help Reduce SIDS Risk - Baby gear that helps reduce SIDS

There are some affordable items that may help to prevent SIDS. These are my favorites.

SIDS Links - Links to more information about SIDS

Read even more helpful information about sudden infant death syndrome.

SIDS Support Book

This book provides explanations, comfort, and support for families dealing with the terrible loss of losing a baby to SIDS.

SIDS & Infant Death Survival Guide: Information and Comfort for Grieving Family & Friends & Professionals Who Seek to Help Them
SIDS & Infant Death Survival Guide: Information and Comfort for Grieving Family & Friends & Professionals Who Seek to Help Them

If you or a friend have lost a baby to SIDS, this book can help you deal with the terrible loss by answering a lot of your questions.


SIDS is a heartbreaking condition. It's important that new parents educate themselves on the risk factors of SIDS and how to help prevent it.

Did I Answer All of Your SIDS Questions? - Thank you for visiting

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    • iwrite100 profile image

      Maribel Forayo 

      5 years ago from Philippines

      Big help to new moms. I knew one who lost her baby for this. The pain she had lingered and she had always felt guilty about not knowing what to watch out then.

    • Wendy Leanne profile imageAUTHOR

      Wendy Leanne 

      6 years ago from Texas

      @CruiseReady: Babies cannot yet regulate their own body temperature; therefore, extreme temperatures in either direction (hot or cold) can be quite dangerous. A lovely RN at the hospital taught me all about that when I had my first baby.

    • CruiseReady profile image


      6 years ago from East Central Florida

      This is an important issue, and I really did learn some new things about SIDS. I was surprised about the temperatures. That's something i wouldn't have connected with it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      thank you so much for this page, SIDS is a serious issue of which more people need to be aware. God Bless.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      6 years ago from Canada

      One of my daughter's daughters had a bacterial infection at just a month old because a duct had not formed properly within her tiny body. She took her twice to doctors only to be sent back home (her own was on holidays). Thankfully her doctor came back and as soon as he saw her they were put immediately into an air rescue to the largest hospital facility to be treated. She had bacterial menengitis. In the old days she may have become another sids fatality.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 

      6 years ago from California

      I knew about SIDS but didn't know they had particular products like a breathable bumper pad. Now that is something I would get for a new mother that might have a lot of anxiety, *Blessed*

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very nice resource about SIDS. Angel blessed.


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