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    Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Meaning, Causes & Prevention

    Baby Care

    Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Meaning, Causes & Prevention

    Updated on 27 February 2024

    Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a tragic and mysterious occurrence that has puzzled medical professionals and parents for decades. In this article, we will delve into the meaning of SIDS, explore its potential causes, and discuss crucial prevention strategies to help parents and caregivers safeguard their infants. Understanding SIDS is essential for promoting infant health and ensuring a safe sleeping environment for babies.

    What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

    Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot or crib death, is the sudden and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby under the age of 1. Most SIDS deaths occur when the baby is asleep and during the first six months of life. It is a leading cause of death in infants and continues to be a major concern for parents and healthcare professionals worldwide due to its elusive nature.

    You may also like: Baby Sleep (Infant Sleep): What to Expect & Tips

    Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Causes

    As of now, the exact cause of SIDS remains unknown. However, there are certain factors associated with SIDS in babies.

    According to experts, SIDS occurs at a specific stage in a baby’s development and babies exposed to certain environmental stress can be affected by the SIDS disease. Environmental stress could include tobacco smoke, suffocated bedding, breathing obstruction or a minor illness.

    Babies who die from SIDS are thought to have problems in their response to these stresses and how their heart rate, breathing and temperature is regulated.

    Additionally, babies born prematurely or with low birth weight may also be vulnerable to SIDS disease.

    You may also like: Infant Choking: Prevention & Causes

    Who is at risk for SIDS?

    Most SIDS deaths occur among babies between 1-4 months old, especially during the winter. Babies have a higher risk of SIDS if:

    • the mother smoked, drank or used drugs during pregnancy and after birth

    • the mother received poor prenatal care

    • the mother was younger than 20 when she gave birth

    • the baby was born prematurely or at a low birth weight

    • there's a family history of SIDS

    • the baby is exposed to tobacco smoke

    • the baby gets overheated, sleeps on a soft surface with loose blankets and pillows or in the parent’s bed

    You may also like: How to Establish Good and Effective Baby Sleep Habits?

    What can I do to aid in the prevention of SIDS?

    Here are a few things you must keep in mind to prevent SIDS in babies:

    • Always place your baby in the “feet to foot” position, meaning their feet should touch the end of their cot or crib

    • Don’t cover your baby’s head with a blanket, it should be tucked till the shoulders only

    • Place your baby’s crib in your room for the first 6 months

    • Your baby’s crib mattress should be firm, flat and waterproof

    • Breastfeed your baby as it can lower the risk of death by up to 50%

    • You must not smoke during pregnancy or let anyone near your baby smoke before and after birth

    • Avoid sleeping on the same bed, sofa or armchair with your baby

    • Avoid sharing a bed with your baby if you or your partner smoke or take drugs, have consumed alcohol recently or your baby was born prematurely or at a low birth weight

    • Provide a comfortable sleeping environment for your baby and maintain a room temperature of 16-20 degrees Celsius

    You may also like: 10 Useful Baby Care Tips for New Parents

    Why is sleeping on stomach dangerous for babies?

    SIDS in babies is more likely to occur if the baby is placed on their stomach while sleeping. Babies should also not be placed on their sides as they can easily roll from their side to their belly during sleep.

    According to some researchers, sleeping on the stomach may block the airways of babies. Additionally, babies sleeping on their stomachs are more likely to breathe their own exhaled air, which can cause their oxygen levels to drop and carbon dioxide levels to rise.

    It is recommended that all babies should be placed on their backs while sleeping for the first year of life. Once babies are able to consistently roll over from back to belly and belly to back, they can sleep in whichever position they choose.

    What does "Safe to Sleep" mean?

    The Safe to Sleep campaign reminds parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs and maintain a safe sleeping environment. They can follow the below steps to make sure their baby is safe to sleep:

    • Placing the baby on a firm, flat mattress instead of a pillow, waterbed, couch or any other soft surface

    • Covering the mattress with a fitted sheet and keeping soft objects, bedding out of the area

    • Avoiding bumper pads in the crib as they can cause suffocation or strangulation

    • Sharing the room with the baby without sharing the bed

    • Breastfeeding as it can reduce the risk of SIDS in babies

    • Avoiding overheating, overdressing and over-bundling the baby

    • Staying away from smoking, alcohol and drugs during pregnancy and after birth

    • Ensuring the baby gets all the recommended vaccinations

    You may also like: Most Important Vaccines for Indian Babies: Here's the Complete Chart

    Seeking medical attention if your baby is ill

    Babies often suffer from minor illnesses that parents need not worry about. However, if you’re worried about your baby or they’re taking too long to recover, seek medical advice.

    Call a doctor or ambulance immediately if your baby:

    • Stops breathing or starts to turn blue

    • Is struggling for breath

    • Is unaware of their surroundings or unconscious

    • Does not wake up

    • Has a fit for the first time

    Final Thoughts

    In conclusion, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) remains a distressing and enigmatic occurrence that poses a significant threat to the well-being of infants. Through our exploration of the meaning, potential causes, and prevention strategies of SIDS, it is evident that raising awareness and implementing safe sleep practices are crucial in reducing the risk of SIDS.


    1. Vincent A, Chu NT, Shah A, Avanthika C, Jhaveri S, Singh K, Limaye OM, Boddu H. (2023). Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Risk Factors and Newer Risk Reduction Strategies. Cureus.

    2. Jullien S. Sudden infant death syndrome prevention. (2021). BMC Pediatr.

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    Written by

    Anupama Chadha

    Anupama Chadha, born and raised in Delhi is a content writer who has written extensively for industries such as HR, Healthcare, Finance, Retail and Tech.

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