by Alan Greene, MD, FAAP

Becoming a parent opens up new landscapes of emotion within us: new hopes, fears, delights, and sorrows. It’s a combination of raw emotions that leave you feeling more vulnerable than you could have ever imagined - like walking around with your heart outside of your body. There is no magic moment when you stop worrying, and sometimes, even when we do everything right, the unthinkable could still happen. The fragility and unpredictability of life underscore how precious each life is.

Today I’d like to share a little about SIDS and some of the best tips on how to prevent it.

What is SIDS?
SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is defined as the sudden, unexpected, and unexplained death of any infant or young child. According to the CDC, SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies from 1 to 12 months of age. It is the third leading cause of overall infant mortality in the United States.

Who suffers from SIDS?
The peak period for SIDS is between two and four months old. It is very rare before one month of age, and at least 95 percent of all the cases have occurred before children reach six months old.

SIDS is rare in babies who sleep on their backs (and not on a waterbed or soft sofa) and are not exposed to tobacco smoke

SIDS is more common in babies who:
• sleep in warm environments,
• are over-bundled,
• sleep in rooms with space heaters,
• are exposed to cigarette smoke,
• sleep on soft surfaces,
• do not use pacifiers, and
• sleep face down or in a prone position.

The rate of SIDS is also higher in those babies who do not receive timely well-child check-ups.

Events that occur even before the baby is born affect the risk of SIDS. Anything that causes less oxygen to reach the baby in the uterus will increase his or her SIDS risk. On average, smoking during pregnancy doubles the chances, and the odds increase with each cigarette. Affected infants may have been born with immature brainstems, making it difficult for them to wake up when they are in trouble.

Genetics also plays a large role. SIDS is more common in boys than in girls, and it is more common in some population groups (Black, Native American, Hawaiian, Filipino, Maori).

While parents often feel horribly responsible after a SIDS fatality, sometimes there is nothing they could have done to prevent it. There are many factors outside of our control and there is still much for us to learn about this mysterious reason for infant mortality. To learn more about SIDS, and my 10 Tips to Help Prevent SIDS visit: Safe Sleep Best Practices.