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SIDS

Every parent’s greatest fear. Know the latest information available.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a medical term that describes the sudden death of an infant that remains unexplained after all known and possible causes have been carefully ruled out through autopsy, death scene investigation, and review of the medical history. It is a diagnosis of exclusion. Also known as cot death, SIDS is responsible for more deaths of infants aged between one month and a year than any other cause. It strikes families of all races, ethnic and socio-economic origins without warning.

Neither parents nor physicians can predict SIDS.
In fact most SIDS victims appear healthy before death. Most deaths from SIDS occur by the end a baby’s first six months of life with the greatest number occurring between two and four months of age.
A SIDS death happens quickly and is often associated with sleep with no signs of suffering. For unknown reasons more deaths are reported in autumn and winter, both in the northern and southern hemispheres, and there is a 60 to 40 percent male to female ratio.
While there are no adequate medical explanations for SIDS deaths, current theories include:

  • stress in a normal baby, caused by infection or other factors
  • a birth defect
  • ailure to develop
  • a critical period when all babies are especially vulnerable, such as time of rapid growth

Many new studies have been launched to discover how and why SIDS occurs. Scientists are exploring the development and function of the nervous system, the brain, the heart, breathing and sleep patterns, body chemical balances, autopsy findings and environmental factors. It is likely that SIDS, like many other medical disorders, will eventually have more than one explanation.

It is widely accepted that exposure to cigarette smoking and overheating are two factors linked to cot death.

Can SIDS be prevented?

Some recent studies have begun to isolate several risk factors that may play a role in some cases of SIDS. These risk factors are not in themselves causes but researchers know that the mother’s health and behaviour during her pregnancy and the baby’s health before birth, seem to influence the occurrence of SIDS.
However, these factors in themselves are not reliable predictors of how, when or if at all, it will occur.

Maternal risk factors include

  • cigarette smoking during pregnanc
  • maternal age is less than 20 years
  • poor pre-natal care
  • low weight gain in the baby
  • anaemia
  • use of recreational drugs
  • history of sexually transmitted diseases
  • urinary tract infection

These factors, which often may be subtle and undetected, suggest that SIDS maybe associated with a harmful prenatal environment.

Expert Advice

Experts advise the following steps as risk-reducing strategies for SIDS:

  • Always put your baby to sleep on its back
  • Always position your baby with its feet to the base of the cot to prevent your baby wriggling downwards under the covers
  • Always tuck in all bedding to minimise your baby moving
  • Make sure your baby’s head and face remain free and uncovered during sleep
  • Ideal bedding comprises a sheet and blankets (up to three blankets depending on the nursery temperature)
  • AVOID duvets and quilts and remove extra padding and bolsters from the cot
  • Keep your baby in a smoke-free environment both before and after birth

Studies in the United Kingdom found that having your baby sleeping in the same room as you can reduce the incidence of cot death although the reason is unknown.

In 1991 a widespread campaign in Britain alerted parents to the importance of putting your baby to sleep on its back (rather than its tummy) and this procedure is thought to have reduced the incidence of cot death in the UK by as much as 70%.

If you choose to have your baby sleeping with you in your bed, experts advise that it is important that you have not been drinking alcohol or smoking and that you are not too sleepy. In these cases you are better to put your baby in its own cot. Furthermore experts advise against falling asleep on the sofa with your baby to avoid the possibility to rolling over and smothering your baby.

It is important that parents understand that SIDS is not:

  • child abuse
  • contagious
  • caused by vomiting and choking or minor
  • (DPT) vaccines or other immunisations the cause of every unexpected infant death
  • Ideal bedding comprises a sheet and blankets (up to three blankets depending on the nursery temperature)
  • AVOID duvets and quilts and remove extra padding and bolsters from the cot
  • Keep your baby in a smoke-free environment both before and after birth

Any sudden, unexpected death threatens any parent’s sense of safety and security. Because the death of an infant is a disruption of the natural order it is traumatic for all concerned. The lack of a discernible cause, the suddenness of the tragedy, and the involvement of the legal system make a SIDS death especially difficult, leaving a great sense of loss and a need for understanding.




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