Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the abrupt and unforeseen death of infants less than age 1 year old from an undetermined cause. This condition is highly random and apparently affects healthy infants.
When does it occur?
Sudden infant death syndrome typically occurs during sleep and often called as “crib death”. Even though the condition can occur at any time during the initial year of life, these likely occur between the age of 2-4 months old when the sleeping patterns are still developing.
It is also quite common during the cold season. Most cases of deaths occur among infants aged 6 months.
What are the reasons why sudden infant death syndrome occur?
Even though the risk factors have been identified, the exact cause of sudden infant death syndrome is still unknown. The risk is highest if the following factors are present:
- Infant is vulnerable such as premature or exposed to maternal smoking while in the womb.
- During the period of developmental unsteadiness such as when the sleeping patterns are still maturing.
- Being positioned on the stomach to go to sleep. These infants are believed to have immature breathing reflexes which leads to inability to awaken from sleep, thus resulting to death.
- Sleeping on his/her back – putting the child to sleep on his/her back drastically minimizes the risk for sudden infant death syndrome. A concern with this position is the formation of a flattened spot on the back of the head but this is prevented by allowing “tummy time” while the infant is awake during the day.
- Breastfeeding – this can drastically reduce the risk for SIDS. The highest effect is strongest if exclusive breastfeeding is followed.
- Room sharing – the infant should stay in the same room with the parents to reduce the risk. An infant is less likely to suffocate since the parents are nearby.
- Prenatal care – based on studies conducted, it was discovered that the risk is reduced among infants whose mothers received regular prenatal care.
- Pacifiers – using pacifiers can protect the infant from SIDS. Nevertheless, introducing the pacifier should be done until after breastfeeding has started.
- Routine immunizations – based on recent studies, it suggests that immunizations can provide a protective effect against SIDS.