Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Sleep

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexpected death of a baby under 12 months of age which cannot be explained by autopsy or medical investigation. The risk peaks between two and three months of age and is more common in boys than girls. It is the leading cause of death for infants and in most cases the baby was in good health immediately before the death.

Causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

The cause of SIDS remains unknown, but the following are common factors that can contribute to a higher risk of SIDS:

  • Sleeping in a prone position, such as on their stomach. Statistics show that babies placed to sleep on their stomachs are 18 times more likely to die from SIDS if they are used to being put to sleep on their backs. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should be placed on their backs to sleep.
  • Unsafe bed, such as a couch, daybed or waterbed
  • Loose bedding or blankets and pillows which can impair the baby’s ability to breathe if they are too close to the face. Better alternatives to blankets include dressing a baby in a “Onesie” or placing him in a sleep sack or wearable blanket.
  • Overheating
  • Mothers younger than 20 years old
  • Smoking during pregnancy or exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Mother receiving no or little prenatal care
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight

Myths about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

  • Immunization causes SIDS - According to a 2003 study by the Institute of Medicine’s Board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, there is no connection between the two.
  • Infants can choke if they are sleeping on their backs - There is no increased risk of choking or other problems for babies sleeping on their backs.
  • A baby should sleep on his side - Infants who sleep on their sides can roll onto their tummies, which put them at a higher risk of SIDS. Babies should sleep on their backs, not their sides or tummies. This has been the recommendation of the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics since the 1990s.
  • Babies should never be placed on their stomachs - “Tummy time” is useful during daily activities as it is helps in building a strong neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Sleeping on the back can cause flattening of the back of the head - Once the baby learns to sit up, flat spots on the back of the head tend to go away. Placing the baby on his side while awake or holding the baby in an upright position can help reduce these flat areas. Periodically changing the direction of the baby’s head when he is put down is also recommended.

To learn more about SIDS, call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563.