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SIDS in babies

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is commonly referred to as crib death. It is the term for the sudden death of a healthy baby that occurs without explanation or expectation. Thankfully, SIDS is rare, with about 1,300 babies dying in the US every year, but every death is one death too many, so the aim is to reduce the risk as much as possible. 

What increases the risk of SIDS?

Research so far has helped us understand a few things about babies who suffer from SIDS: it usually occurs when a baby is asleep, is most common during the first 6 months of life, and is more common in baby boys, children born prematurely, or those with lower birth weight. Babies exposed to cigarette smoke, who have too much bedding, or who co-sleep with their parents are also at greater risk. While research hasn’t confirmed it, these babies are thought to have mild difficulties with their hearts or lungs. After the age of 6 months it becomes rare as this is the time babies start to become more mobile and can roll over.

What are the ways to reduce SIDS?

How your baby sleeps is very important, and there is a lot of evidence-based advice. Place baby on their back when they sleep and place them on a firm mattress with their feet touching the foot of the cot or basket.

Using sleepsuits instead of blankets is another way to reduce this risk.

It is advised that your baby sleeps in the same room as you for the first 6 months, but avoid co-sleeping (especially if you smoke, drink alcohol, or take any drugs or medications which may increase your drowsiness) as there is a risk you may roll over onto baby and suffocate them.

Breastfeeding offers some protection against SIDS, so this is always encouraged.

Ideally, the room's temperature should be between 60 and 68 degrees F.

Do not place baby’s crib next to a radiator or heater, or use things like electric blankets or hot water bottles with them.

Do not allow anyone to smoke near your baby, and avoid smoking during your pregnancy or after your child's birth. Where they sleep should be a strict smoke-free zone.

What signs should I look out for?

Watch out for signs that your baby is too hot or cold – they may sweat, shiver or gasp for breath. If your baby is struggling for breath, turns blue, is difficult to arouse, becomes unconscious, or has a seizure, dial 911 immediately for an ambulance.

First Candle has some great resources on reducing SIDS risk and offers emotional support for bereaved families.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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