Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): causes and prevention
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): you may have heard of it, be afraid of it, but not really know what it is and how to reduce the risk. For this reason, we decided to invite a neonatologist paediatrician working in a French maternity hospital to talk about it with us, so you know more about this syndrome.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also called cot death or crib death, refers to the sudden death of a previously healthy baby. At Babysits, we thought this was an important topic to cover so that you can understand this syndrome better and learn the important steps to avoid it as much as possible. All the information and advice you will find in this article comes from a professional, so keep reading to see what the neonatologist paediatrician (paediatrician specialized in newborn care) said during our interview.
What is SIDS?
First, as mentioned above, this syndrome is sometimes referred to as cot death or crib death. The paediatrician we spoke to explained: “this syndrome occurs when a healthy toddler, aged 0-6 months, suddenly dies during his or her sleep. The death is unexplained because no cause can be found, and always happens when the infant is sleeping, at night or during a nap.” Therefore it can not occur when he/she is awake.
How common is SIDS?
Many prevention campaigns have been organised in some countries, particularly in the 1990s, to encourage families to stop putting their babies to sleep on their stomachs. Since these campaigns, a clear reduction in the syndrome has been observed.
In the United States, around 1248 healthy babies die from SIDS each year. In 2020 the rate of unexpected infant death syndrome was therefore around 0.04%.
How to prevent SIDS?
The risk of sudden infant death syndrome can be reduced by following a few steps and actions.
First, it is important to know that you should not put your baby to sleep on his or her stomach. Laying your baby on his back reduces the risk of unexpected death by 75%. So the first tip is to put your baby to sleep on his back on a firm mattress, and of course without a pillow.
Put your child to bed in a “baby sleeping bag”, without extra blankets. Do not overload the bed with toys or stuffed animals, and limit yourself to one stuffed animal in the bed.
The paediatrician also mentioned "to make the baby sleep in a non-overheated room between 18°C and 20°C and to keep him in the parents' room at night until he is 6 months old".
If someone in your household smokes, it is important not to smoke in the house. Cigarette particles can also be a risk factor.
Finally, note that having your baby sleep with you greatly increases the risk. Indeed, the doctor explained to us: “you can move on top of him/her during your deep sleep phase, and this is very dangerous”. So do not sleep with your child in the same bed. An alternative to this is co-sleeping, which consists of adding an extension cradle to the parental bed. This allows you to be close to your baby without the risk of smothering him or her.
New risk-reducing products
Some products, such as connected cots for example, have been created to reduce the risk of sudden infant death. These connected cots have built-in microphones that detect the baby's cries to automatically rock the baby, and they allow the baby to be swaddled so that he/she remains on his/her back.
However, the paediatrician we spoke to told us that these kinds of objects are not necessarily much more useful than the recommendations mentioned above. If you follow these recommendations, a connected cot will not help you to reduce SIDS risk any further. Moreover, these objects can be very stressful for the parents, and thus stress the child in the end.
We hope this information and advice has helped you to see things more clearly. You can also read our other advice articles to learn about other topics.