What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2018
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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unforeseen death of an infant typically under the age of 1. It is the number one cause of death among babies in infancy up to 12 months old. In the case of SIDS, the baby stops breathing during sleep for no apparent reason. Babies who fall victim to SIDS have typically had no prior health problems.

Also known as crib death, the occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome has no known cause, despite the fact that there have been concepts and theories from researchers in the medical field. For years, medical science has been trying to uncover more precise findings that would lead to a reason for sudden infant death syndrome. Some scientists believe that babies who have died from SIDS may have been predisposed to this condition. The research points to a clue leading to a deficiency located in the part of the brain responsible for the control of breathing patterns.

Other experts have a different theory regarding sleeping positions. Some physicians who specialize in pediatrics warn against placing a child on the stomach, suggesting this places too much pressure on an infant's delicate respiratory system. Although not conclusive and theoretic in nature, some experts' advice is to position a baby on her side.


Scientists and medical experts have concurred on one essential factor regarding risk for sudden infant death syndrome. They claim babies who were born premature do have a higher risk for sudden death. According to pediatricians, prevention is one appropriate step. Experts have suggested that prenatal care is essential, as well as the mother refraining from smoking cigarettes and using narcotic drugs. The belief is that all of these factors play a contributing role in a major risk for sudden infant death syndrome.

This phenomenon is rarely seen in parts of Asia. Some scientists feel this could be attributed to the fact that many Asian parents sleep with their infants in the same bed–this leads to yet another theory behind a possible cause for SIDS. Some researchers suspect that while sleeping with their parents, infants may develop efficient breathing patterns that are more consistent and responsive.

Experts belief sudden infant death syndrome has been recognized for over 100 years. It is said to have been named in the late 1960s. It wasn't until the late 1970s that it was recognized officially as a cause of death.



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