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SIDS … which babies are most at risk?

Approximately 2,500 infants die suddenly from SIDS in the United States annually. It is a frightening prospect because it can strike without warning, usually in a seemingly healthy infant. SIDS most commonly affects babies who are younger than 1 year old between the ages of 2 to 4 months, with 90 percent of cases in infants under 6 months. SIDS occurs most frequently during cold-weather months. Which babies are most at risk? Can we reduce the risk of SIDS? Find out more…

What is SIDS?

SIDS, or a sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than one year old, kills about 2,500 infants annually and is the leading cause of death in that age group, with 90 percent of cases in infants under 6 months and occurs most frequently during cold-weather months.

SIDS isn't any one illness or disease, it's the diagnosis given when an infant under a year old dies suddenly, strike without warning, usually in a seemingly healthy infant

Although SIDS is also known as crib death because it happens most often during sleep, usually between the hours of 10 p.m. and 10 a.m., however night isn't the only time that SIDS strikes. It's important to know that 20 percent of SIDS deaths happen in childcare settings (considerably high number if you consider that babies spend much less time sleeping at daycare than they do at home), according to a study published in the journal of Pediatrics in 2000.

What causes SIDS?

Although many research study have been executed, yet no definitive answer of the cause of SIDS are to be found.

Some researchers believe SIDS happens when a baby with an underlying abnormality (for example, a brain defect that affects breathing) sleeps tummy-down or is exposed to an environmental challenge such as secondhand smoke during a critical period of growth. While other research has published studies contradict to this hypothesis.

Numerous studies are continuing to study the brain, the autonomic nervous system, infant care and sleep environments, infection and immunity, and genetics in search of answers.

Which infants are most at risk?

Although the exact cause of SIDS is still unknown, some risk factors have been identified, such as:

  • Tummy sleeping
    Foremost among these risk factors is tummy sleeping. A baby's risk of SIDS has been found to be 1.7 to 12.9 percent higher if he sleeps on his tummy instead of his back. Numerous studies have found a higher incidence of SIDS among babies placed on their stomachs to sleep than among those sleeping on their backs or sides. Some researchers have hypothesized that stomach sleeping, When a baby sleeps tummy-down he's more likely to overheat, puts pressure on a baby's jaw, therefore narrowing the airway and hampering breathing i.e.: pauses in breathing, and re-breathe the air just exhaled. As the baby breathes exhaled air, the oxygen level in the body drops and carbon dioxide accumulates and could contribute to SIDS.

    Infants who succumb to SIDS may have an abnormality in the arcuate nucleus, the brain part that control breathing and awakening during sleep. If a baby is breathing stale air and not getting enough oxygen, the brain usually triggers the baby to wake up and cry. However a problem with the arcuate nucleus could deprive the baby of this involuntary reaction and put it at greater risk for SIDS.

  • Sleeping on soft surface
    A soft mattress or with bedding, stuffed toys, quilts, comforters, sofas, waterbeds, beanbags, and other soft surfaces or a pillow near the face are all unsafe for a baby to sleep on and increase a higher risk of SIDS. Similar to tummy sleeping, soft surfaces increase the chance that your baby will encounter problems with breathing or overheating. It creates a small enclosure around the baby's mouth and trap exhaled air. As the baby breathes exhaled air, the oxygen level in the body drops and carbon dioxide accumulates.

  • Overheating
    There is strong evidence that overheating may significantly raise the risk of SIDS. Overheating can result from overheated room, wrapping or covering a baby with too many blankets, particularly when baby has a fever or respiratory infection. Keep the room at a temperature that feels comfortable for an adult in a short-sleeve shirt.

  • Secondhand smoke exposure
    Studies indicate a baby's risk of SIDS increases with the number of and the length of cigarettes smoked exposure around the infant each day.

  • Drinking alcohol, smoking and drugs use mother
    Drinking alcohol, smoking and drugs use during pregnancy can compromise a baby's healthy development.

  • Teen Mother
    The risk of SIDS increases for baby born to a teen mother.

  • Low birth weight premature baby
    Premature baby has a higher his risk of SIDS. The lower the birth weight, the higher the risk as well.

  • Being a boy
    Boys is more prone having higher risk of SIDS than girls by a ratio of 1.5 to 1.

  • Ethnic backgrounds
    African-American infants are twice as likely and Native American infants are about three times more likely to die of SIDS than Caucasians. Asian, who have a cultural preference placing infants on their back, have had a lower than average risk for SIDS. When they migrate to North America and began placing babies on their tummyScience Articles, their SIDS rates rose.

Growing public awareness of SIDS and the steps to reduce infants' risk of sudden death hopefully will leave fewer parents searching for answers in the future for protecting their infants from SIDS tragedy.

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Irwan Librata, an entrepreneur who turned his hobby into his business and blog owner of, and graduated with a Bachelor degree in Biomedical Engineering from one of prominent University in US - Case Western University.

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