SIDS stands for “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome“: a term that strikes fear in the hearts of new parents everywhere. SIDS is not an illness or a disease. Instead, it is a diagnoses that is given when a child under one years old dies and an exact cause cannot be found. Approximately 2,300 infants in the United States die from SIDS each year making it the number one cause of death for babies between the ages of one and four months. Most cases of SIDS (approximately 90%) involve babies under the age of six months.
The fact that that SIDS can occur suddenly without any type of warning signs makes it particularly devastating for families. So, what causes SIDS? Although there has been much research on this topic, researchers have yet to find a definitive answer to this important question. Most experts think that SIDS occurs when a baby has an underlying problem such as a abnormal or immature functioning of the heart, breathing or arousal and is exposed to stressors. These stressors may include sleeping on soft bedding or on their stomachs during a critical period of development. Another study suggested that SIDS may occur due to another type of vulnerability: lower than normal levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps to regulate breathing, heart rate and blood pressure during sleep.
Whatever the cause, there are a few things you can do to reduce your baby’s risk for SIDS including putting your baby to sleep on his or her back and choosing your baby’s bedding carefully. Gettting regular prenatal care and keeping your baby away from cigarette smoke can also help to reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. For more information about how to prevent SIDS, talk to your OBGYN or healthcare provider today.