SIDS in Babies – Causes, Symptoms And How to Prevent by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

5 min read

Written by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

A passionate Child Health Advocate, Paediatric Emergency and ICU consultant, Child Safety Expert, Author, and Teambuilder – Dr. Chetan Ginigeri wears different hats according to the role necessit More

SIDS

A baby lights up the world for their parents. It ensures that all the smiles around are meant for him/her but when an unfortunate event occurs related to the baby, the world turns upside down for everyone. SIDS in babies is one such condition.

So, what is SIDS? SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby younger than one year of age. When the cause of death is not found even after a complete investigation, it is declared SIDS. The first 2 months after a baby is born and till the 4th month, the chances of SIDS are at their peak. This is majorly because the cardiovascular muscles are yet to be developed. When it does, the chances start to reduce, and such cases of SIDS are never found. With parents’ total attention and dedicated care, SIDS can be kept at bay.

In This Article

Causes of SIDS in Babies

When it comes to the causes of SIDS, pointing out the only cause can be difficult as it is a result of multiple plausible factors. At a certain stage in a baby’s life, environmental stress leads to such instances of SIDS.

  • Low weight during birth or premature birth can be some of the causes of SIDS among many others which are yet to be identified in detail.
  • Some of the environmental causes can be tobacco smoke, getting strangled by the bedding or any kind of breathing obstruction.
  • The main issue is how a baby reacts to such stress and what their heart rate and temperature are.
  • When the heart rate gets too fast with elevated temperature and breathing issues, immediate medical help should be taken to avoid any SIDS cases.

Symptoms of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in Newborns

The worst part of SIDS is that there are no specific signs or symptoms that will warn the parents. In most SIDS cases, the infant is found dead the way it was last kept by their parents in the cradle or bed. There are no signs of struggle before SIDS which further makes the process complicated to be diagnosed or forecasted.

After a complete autopsy and investigation of the death, if the doctors and police cannot come up with a reason why the baby died, then it is declared a SIDS case. This is the main reason why signs and symptoms in such cases are really hard to spot. All you need to ensure is that proper care of the baby must be taken throughout this time to avoid any such instance.

Which Babies Are at a Higher Risk For SIDS?

SIDS can occur to any infant regardless of risk factors, here are some of the factors which put a baby at high risk.

  • SIDS chances are higher in boys than in girls.
  • The highest vulnerability is within 2-4 months of a baby being born.
  • Scientists are yet to find the reason behind this, but non-white babies are more prone to SIDS.
  • If a cousin or sibling has suffered from SIDS, then there are higher chances of the baby suffering the same.
  • For babies living with smokers, the chances of SIDS are at their highest.
  • If the baby is suffering from respiratory issues like cough and cold, then it induces the chances of SIDS.

How to Reduce Baby’s Risk of SIDS

According to research, there are numerous ways in which SIDS risk can be reduced significantly. Here they are.

1. The Right Sleeping Position

Make sure you rest the baby on his/her back for daytime naps or a night of sleep.

The back sleep position is considered to be the safest for babies until they are 1 year old. However, babies who are sleeping on their back should be made to sleep on their stomachs as it increases the chances of SIDS.

In the case of a premature baby, make sure that they are made to sleep on their back as it reduces the chances of SIDS considerably.

2. The Right Sleeping Surface

A firm and flat sleep surface is highly recommended for babies. Make sure there are no other soft elements in the sleeping area and it should only have a fitted bed sheet.

Avoid making the baby sleep on super soft surfaces such as a waterbed, couch, pillow or quilt. An infant carrier or infant swing should not be used as a regular sleep surface for the baby.

These will substantially reduce the risk of the baby getting succumbed to SIDS or any other injury or strangulation during the sleep.

3. Breastfeeding

Breastfeed your baby to reduce the risk of SIDS. It is a fact that breastfeeding has a bag full of benefits for the mother and also the baby.

For the first 6 months or 1 year, make sure that you keep the baby near to your bed so that you can follow him or her at night. In case of any problem faced by the baby, you can check them out at night.

4. Tummy Time

Tummy time is important for the baby. Make sure you give him/her sufficient tummy time when someone is around. More tummy time will help the baby strengthen the neck, shoulder and arm muscles in the long run. It will also prevent any flat spot on the back of your baby’s head.

5. Vaccinations And Health Checks

Strictly follow the vaccination and health check-up routine suggested by your baby’s physician. It will help you to spot any clinical issue with the child immediately.

What Moms Can do to Protect a Baby From SIDS

What Moms Can do to Protect a Baby From SIDS

To reduce the chances of SIDS, the mother should follow these-

  • Opt for timely prenatal care during the time of pregnancy
  • Post childbirth and during pregnancy, avoid smoking cigarettes, marijuana or drinking alcohol.
  • Avoid smoking around the baby (this rule should be followed forever!)
  • Plus, ensure that you are not co-sleeping with your baby in an adult bed. When 1-2 adults sleep with a baby, it enhances the chances of suffocation and SIDS. This is why babies should be made to sleep separately for more safety.
  • Always connect with medical professionals when in need of help during any such baby health care-related instance. Experts know their job and can always give the best advice on how to keep them fit and fine.

FAQ’s

1. Can SIDS Happen When a Baby is Awake?

According to epidemiological data, SIDS is related to sleeping state. However, there can be some cases which are extremely rare when SIDS happens when the baby is awake.

2. Why do Pacifiers Reduce SIDS?

Sucking on a pacifier before bedtime surely reduces the chances of SIDS. The forward positioning of the tongue ensures that the risk of oropharyngeal obstruction is substantially reduced. Thus, the chances of SIDS are lower.

3. Why Does SIDS Happen at Night?

During the night, sleep is deeply concentrated which is why the chance of SIDS are higher. As per data, 83% of SIDS cases are reported around midnight when the baby is in deep sleep.

4. Is SIDS Just Suffocation?

SIDS should not be confused with suffocation and also it is not the only cause of SIDS. SIDS is an accidental blockage of oxygen, but it should not be mixed up with suffocation only.

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Dr. Chetan Ginigeri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER), Fellowship PICU (Kings College London)
Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital
17 years of experience

Dr Chetan Ginigeri is an experienced Pediatric Intensivist with national and international training. With 15 years of experience, he is one among very few Intensivists in India trained to take care of children who need/had organ transplants. He has been responsible for coordinating the Pediatric Organ Transplant program.Read more.

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