Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

SIDS is the unexplained sudden death of an infant (under one year of age). Although there are several theories, no one is certain why SIDS occurs. In the U.S., there are one or two SIDS cases for every 1,000 live births.

The incidence of SIDS decreased significantly (almost 30%) after it was discovered that most (but not all) SIDS babies were found in the prone position (sleeping on their tummy). “BACK TO SLEEP” programs in several European countries and the U.S. were associated with decreased rates of SIDS. From this, it has been suggested that a factor in some cases of SIDS may be that babies are rebreathing high concentrations of expelled air. Because of this theory it is now suggested that:


    li>babies be placed on their sides or backs to sleep; not their abdomens (BACK TO SLEEP)
  • soft sleep surfaces and fabrics that trap air should not be placed under the baby (these may include pillows, and lofty blankets, quilts and comforters)

One needs to be practical about these recommendations. They are for SLEEP only. The AAP recommends “tummy time” for babies that are awake. They also are not recommending hard surfaces for babies to sleep on, only to avoid those particularly soft surfaces which might trap air.

Some studies have shown increased risks of SIDS in premature babies, babies who are not breastfed, and
babies living in houses where there is cigarette smoke.