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Health & Safety

SIDS Cause and Prevention

SIDS RibbonSudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden death of an infant, under the age of one year, for no apparent reason. An autopsy and thorough medical review result in no explanation for the death. SIDS is responsible for more infant deaths than any other cause, for babies from one to twelve months old. There appears to be no suffering, and death occurs rapidly during sleep.  

Approximately 2,500 babies die for no apparent reason each year in the United States. It most often affects babies between the ages of two months and four months. Ninety percent of cases occur in infants under six months of age. It is also called crib death, and usually occurs between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. However, about 20 per cent of crib death cases occur during the day time in day care settings.  

The actual cause of sudden infant death syndrome isn't known, but some risk factors have been identified. These include the following:

  • Placing the baby on his tummy for sleeping.
  • Second hand smoke
  • Premature birth, or very low birth weight
  • Overheating while sleeping
  • Drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy
  • Being born to a teen mother

SIDS is more common in certain ethnic backgrounds. African American babies are victims of SIDS more than twice as often as Caucasian infants. Native American babies are victims more than three times as often as Caucasian infants. Boys are at a slightly higher risk than girls.


More information on SIDS can be found at the following resources:  

  • The American SIDS Institute was founded in 1983, is dedicated to the prevention of sudden infant death, and promotes a nationwide program of research, clinical services, education, and family support.
  • Detailed information on SIDS can be obtained from SIDS Network.
  • Baby Center offers information on reducing the risk of SIDS.
  • Support for families who have lost a child to SIDS can be found from Compassionate Friends.
  • Baby Place offers a detailed resource page on SIDS.

Research is ongoing to learn why and how SIDS occurs. Areas being explored include brain development, breathing patterns, sleep patterns, body chemical balances, and more. It is likely that SIDS will eventually have more than one explanation. Although there has been a decrease in recent years in SIDS, both researchers and parents hope it will eventually be eliminated.

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