Is It Possible to Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is an issue that greatly concerns parents. In this article, we’ll discuss the measures you can take to prevent it.
Is It Possible to Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?

Last update: 26 September, 2020

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death of a baby less than a year old. Little is known about the cause and no specific treatment exists. Normally, it’s unpredictable. That’s why it’s an issue that concerns parents.

In this article, we’ll talk about sudden infant death syndrome and discuss whether it’s possible to take any actions to prevent it.

What’s sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death of a baby less than a year old. It apparently occurs while the baby is asleep.

There’s no medical explanation for it, not even after studying the environment in which it occurred, the newborn’s history, and practicing an autopsy on the baby.

It’s believed that the physiological cause of sudden death is immaturity of the baby’s brain. Specifically, the area that controls breathing and sleep. This immaturity makes the baby unable to wake up reflexively when there’s a lack of oxygen.

In normal times, when the body senses a lack of oxygen, it sends signals for the baby to wake up and cry. When the baby cries, they receive the oxygen they need. In these cases, the brain doesn’t send the sign and the baby doesn’t wake up, decreasing the amount of oxygen in their body.

Is It Possible to Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?

The risk factors

Although, as we already mentioned, the actual cause of sudden death isn’t known, experts have identified certain situations where this is most likely to occur.

The most important risk factor is placing your baby to sleep on their stomach. That’s why the Spanish Pediatric Association recommends placing your baby on their back. Some other risk factors are:

  • Boys are slightly more likely to die to SIDS.
  • A premature or underweight baby.
  • A baby who has a hard time ingesting liquids or foods or with some facial malformation.
  • A newborn who’s suffered from a respiratory or gastrointestinal infection.
  • A family history of SIDS.
  • A mother who smoked during pregnancy and after childbirth.
  • Excessive heat or excessive wrapping the child up.
  • Sharing the bed with their parents.

You may be interested in: How Tobacco Smoke Affects the Fetus

Can sudden infant death syndrome be prevented?

Since pediatricians began recommending placing babies to sleep on their backs, the number of sudden deaths has decreased a lot. As we mentioned above, sleeping on their stomach is the main risk factor. Thus, you improve your baby’s breathing and safety by ensuring that they sleep on their back.

Parents can take other steps to reduce the risk of sudden death in your baby. Some of them are:

Is It Possible to Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
  • Attending prenatal care at a health center. Regular checkups are important to detect potential health problems.
  • The mother should eat a balanced diet. Also, it’s important for the mother to avoid smoking and consuming other drugs. Both aspects are important, both during pregnancy and once the baby is born.
  • Make sure to keep the baby away from places with tobacco smoke.
  • Lay the newborn on a flat and firm mattress. Overly soft mattresses increase the risk of sudden death.
  • According to experts, the baby should sleep in the same room as their parents but without sharing a bed with them. This way, parents can better monitor their baby.
  • Avoid excessive heat, either in the environment or wrapping your baby up in too many clothes or blankets.
  • Breastfeeding is considered a protective factor of sudden infant death syndrome.

In short

Sudden infant death syndrome is a complex issue experts don’t know much about. However, the implementation of these recommended measures by the Spanish Pediatric Association has made the number of cases decrease considerably.

It’s important for parents to receive a good education about the birth of the baby or take preparation courses. Also, it’s very important that both the child and the mother go to their medical checkups.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.