What is SIDS? (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, is a random, unexpected tragedy that happens in an estimated 50 out of 100,000 births. Parents are often left wondering what they did wrong, when really, even scientists do not understand the cause of SIDS. There are some theories, of course, but no conclusive evidence. SIDS remains an angel of death that brings sadness in its wake.

Most people may not realize that SIDS is actually the leading cause of death for babies between the ages of 1-12 months. Because no one knows what precipitates SIDS, it is the cause of death given to babies who die for no apparent reason.

Researchers have come up with several theories to explain SIDS, but there is no concrete evidence as to the reason babies suddenly die. Some explanations include:

  •         An unknown birth defect
  •         An infection or other such stress on a baby
  •         Sleeping on the stomach
  •         Inhaling secondhand smoke

One study performed at Seattle Children's Hospital by Dr. Daniel Rubens linked hearing disabilities to SIDS. The doctor found that babies who heard better in their left ear, rather than the right ear as in most children, were more likely to suddenly and unexpectedly die. Although this could be helpful to determine if your baby is at a higher risk to die of SIDS, we still do not have any conclusive evidence of how the hearing problems directly cause death.

The only thing that parents can do to hopefully prevent SIDS is to eliminate the risk factors that some doctors believe might lead to death. While researchers are much more indecisive of what directly causes SIDS, most tend to agree on the following risks factors:

  •         Sleeping on the stomach
  •         Sleeping on a too-soft surface
  •         Becoming too hot while sleeping
  •         Having a teen mother
  •         Having a mother who did drugs or smoked while pregnant
  •         Being around someone who smokes a lot
  •         Premature birth and/or abnormally low birth weight
  •         Being African-American or Native American
  •         Being male

Of course, some of these risk factors are completely out of parents' control, such as the gender of the baby. Also, African-American and Native Americans should not be overly nervous about having children. However, parents should try to eliminate the other possible prompters of SIDS because it is the only thing that we can currently do to help babies.