Sometimes a baby who seems healthy dies during sleep. This is called sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.
In most cases, a parent or caregiver places the baby down to sleep and returns later to find the baby has died. It's no one's fault. SIDS can happen even when you do everything right.
Although SIDS is rare, it is one of the most common causes of death in babies between 1 and 12 months of age. Most babies who die of SIDS are between the ages of 2 and 4 months.
Doctors don't know what causes SIDS. It seems to happen more often in premature and low-birth-weight babies. It also is seen more often in babies whose mothers didn't get medical care during the pregnancy and in babies whose mothers smoke. SIDS may also be more likely in babies who were part of a multiple pregnancy (for example, twins or triplets) or whose mothers are younger than 20.
When babies sleep on their bellies, they may not breathe well. Not too long ago, side sleeping was said to be okay. But babies placed on their sides can easily roll onto their bellies and could have trouble breathing.
Researchers are studying the possibility that SIDS may be caused by problems with how well the brain controls breathing, heart rate and rhythm, and temperature during the first few months of life. More research on this is needed.
SIDS has no symptoms or warning signs. Babies who die of SIDS seem healthy before being put to bed. They show no signs of struggle and are often found in the same position as when they were placed in the bed.
SIDS is named the cause of death only when no other cause is found. To find out why a baby died, medical experts review the baby's and parents' medical histories, study the area where the baby died, and do an autopsy.
Doing certain things may help protect a baby from SIDS and/or other deaths related to sleep:1
There is no sure way to prevent SIDS, and no examination or test can predict whether a baby is likely to die of SIDS. Don't rely on breathing (apnea) monitors, special mattresses, or other devices marketed as a way to reduce your baby's risk of SIDS. None of these items have been proved to lower the risk of SIDS. The Public Health Agency of Canada and other experts do not advise their use.
Remember, SIDS is rare. Be as safe as you can, but don't let fear keep you from enjoying your baby. Tell your baby's caregivers what you expect them to do. Don't assume that they know what to do to help keep your infant safe during sleep.
Each member of your family may respond to the loss of the baby in a different way. These different ways of coping with the baby's death can strain a marriage and a family. Along with feeling grief, family members may be struggling with feelings of guilt. Support from family, friends, your doctor, and possibly other health professionals is very important for everyone. You might find it helpful to:
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Learning about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS):
When SIDS occurs:
|Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths|
|60 James Street|
|St. Catherines, ON L2R 7E7|
The Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths offers educational materials on the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and bereavement support for families who have lost a child to SIDS.
|Canadian Paediatric Society|
|2305 Saint Laurent Boulevard|
|Ottawa, ON K1G 4J8|
The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) promotes quality health care for Canadian children and establishes guidelines for paediatric care. The organization offers educational materials on a variety of topics, including information on immunizations, pregnancy, safety issues, and teen health.
|Canadian Paediatric Society: Caring for Kids|
|2305 Saint Laurent Boulevard|
|Ottawa, ON K1G 4J8|
The Caring for Kids website was developed by the Canadian Paediatric Society and provides parents with information about child health and well-being.
|Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development|
|3050, Édouard-Montpetit Boulevard|
|Montreal, QC H3T 1J7|
|Phone:||(514) 343-6111 ext. 2541|
The Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development is produced by the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development. It provides articles for parents and other care givers on the development of young children, from before birth to the age of five.
|Public Health Agency of Canada: Childhood and Adolescence|
The Public Health Agency of Canada's Childhood and Adolescence website is provides information on maintaining and promoting the health of children and youth in Canada. This site also provides in-depth information on policy development, research, and strategic analysis of trends regarding young people in Canada.
- Public Health Agency of Canada, et al. (2011). Joint Statement on Safe Sleep: Preventing Sudden Infant Deaths in Canada. Available online: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/dca-dea/stages-etapes/childhood-enfance_0-2/sids/pdf/jsss-ecss2011-eng.pdf.
Other Works Consulted
- Community Paediatrics Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society (2004, reaffirmed 2011). Recommendations for safe sleeping environments for infants and children. Paediatrics and Child Health, 9(9): 659–663. Also available online: http://www.cps.ca/english/statements/cp/cp04-02.htm.
- Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee (2008). ABM clinical protocol #6: Guideline on co-sleeping and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding Medicine, 3(1): 38–43.
- Corwin MJ (2011). Apparent life-threatening events and SIDS. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph’s Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 451–454. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Federico MJ, et al. (2011). Respiratory tract and mediastinum. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 20th ed., pp. 487–535. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Hauck FR, Tanabe KO (2009). SIDS, search date April 2007. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
- Hunt CE, Hauck FR (2011). Sudden infant death syndrome. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 1421–1429. Philadelphia: Saunders.
- Hymel KP and the Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, American Academy of Pediatrics (2006, reaffirmed 2010). Clinical report: Distinguishing sudden infant death syndrome from child abuse fatalities. Pediatrics, 118(1): 421–427.
- Kinney HC, Thach BT (2009). The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine, 361(8): 795–805.
- Kline A, Gibson E (2006). Sudden infant death syndrome. In FD Burg et al., eds., Current Pediatric Therapy, 18th ed., pp. 258–260. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
- Vennemann MM, et al. (2009). Does breastfeeding reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? Pediatrics, 123(3): e406–e410.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||John Pope, MD - Pediatrics|
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Chuck Norlin, MD - Pediatrics|
|Last Revised||July 5, 2012|
Last Revised: July 5, 2012
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