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SIDS causes and risk factors

SIDS is a shortcut for sudden infant death syndrome. This is an unexplained death which is usually happening during sleep. It is occurring in a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. SIDS is unexplained death of baby which is younger than 1 year of age. Sometimes, SIDS is known as crib death because the infants often die in their cribs. The cause for SIDS is not known but it appears that it can be associated with defects in the portion of an infant’s brain which controls breathing and arousal from sleep. There are some studies in which are discovered that some factors can put babies at extra risk. Also in these studies were identified measures which you can take to help protect your child from SIDS. It seems that the most important thing is to place your baby on his or her back to sleep. The reason for SIDS is still not known even it is finished complete autopsy which is examining the death scene and reviewing the clinical history. Health care providers are law enforcement personnel are trying to discover what the reason behind baby’s death is. SIDS is not caused by shots, immunizations or vaccines. It is not result of child abuse or neglect.

SIDS Causes and Risk factors

Causes: There is a combination of physical and sleep environmental factors which can make the infant more vulnerable to SIDS and these factors vary from one child to other.

  1. Physical factors: Here are some physical factors which are associated with SIDS:
  • Respiratory infection: There are many infants who have died of SIDS and who recently had a cold which may lead to breathing problems [1].
  • Low birth weight: Being part of a multiple birth or premature birth is increasing the chances that the baby’s brain has not matured completely, so the baby has less control over such automatic processes as heart rate and breathing.
  • Brain defects: There are some infants who are born with problems which are increasing their chances of dying from SIDS [2]. In many of these babies, the portion which is controlling the arousal and breathing from the sleep has not maturated enough to work properly.
  1. Sleep environmental factors: It is known that the items which are in the baby’s crib and his/her sleeping position can combine with the baby’s physical problems to increase the risk of SIDS. Here are some examples:
  • Overheating: If your baby is too warm while he or she is sleeping, then this is increasing the risk of baby having SIDS [3].
  • Sharing a bed: It is known that the risk of SIDS is lowered if the infant sleeps in the same room as his/her parents sleep. The risk of SIDS is increased as the baby sleeps in the same bed with parents, siblings or pets.
  • Sleeping on a soft surface: When the baby is lying with the face down on a waterbed, a soft mattress or a fluffy comforter, then it can block the infant’s airway.
  • Sleeping on the side or stomach: It is known that those babies which are placed in these positions to sleep have increased chances of difficulty breathing compared to children who are placed on their backs. [4]

SIDS causes and risk factors

SIDS Causes and Risk factors

Risk factors: SIDS can strike any infant but there are some studies in which are said that several factors are increasing the risk of SIDS. These factors are:

  • Being premature: If your baby have low birth weight and if he/she is born early, then he/she has more chances of getting SIDS.
  • Secondhand smoke: It is known that babies who live with smokers are having more chances of SIDS than babies who live with non – smokers [5].
  • Family history: It is known that babies who have had siblings or cousins who have died of SIDS are having increased risk of getting it.
  • Race: Nonwhite infants are having more chances of developing SIDS and reasons for this are not well understood.
  • Age: It is known fact that infants are most vulnerable between the 2nd and 4th months of life.
  • Sex: Boys are having more chances of getting SIDS compared to girls [6].
  • Maternal risk factors: When the woman is pregnant, the mother is also affecting her baby’s risk of SIDS, especially if she:
  • Has inadequate prenatal care
  • Uses drugs or alcohol
  • Smokes cigarettes
  • Is younger than 20


[1] National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH alerts caregivers to increase in SIDS risk during cold weather. 2010. Retrieved from

[2] National Institutes of Health (NIH). Brain abnormality found in group of SIDS cases. 2014. Retrieved from

[3] Arnold C. New risk factor for SIDS? Peaks in cot deaths associated with heat waves. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2015;123(7):A185.

[4] Blair PS, Platt MW, Smith IJ, Fleming PJ. Sudden infant death syndrome and sleeping position in pre‐term and low birth weight infants: an opportunity for targeted intervention. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2006;91(2):101–6.

[5] NHS. Smoking and risk of cot death. 2007. Retrieved from

[6] American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). A SIDS surprise: Study finds that infant boys are more easily aroused from sleep than girls. 2010.

Pardhan Singh
Pardhan Singh
A seasoned natural therapist with degree in Ayurvedic Medicine (BAMS) successful in treating various diseases through Ayurvedic treatments. You can contact Pradhan at [email protected]


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