Crib death syndrome (SIDS): how to reduce the risk

“Crib death” was a term commonly used in the past to describe the sudden and unexpected death of an infant. It has recently been largely abandoned as it suggests that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) can only occur in the crib, which we know to be false.

What is SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexpected, and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby. It occurs most often during the first 6 months of a newborn’s life and tends to affect babies born prematurely or with low birth weight.

SIDS also tends to be slightly more common in boys than in girls. It usually occurs when a child is asleep, although it can occasionally occur while awake.

As we will see in one of the following paragraphs, SIDS is rare and the risk of your baby dying from SIDS is low. However, this should not be a reason not to do everything possible to prevent it, above all by avoiding that multiple risk factors add up.

The causes of SIDS

According to Mayo Clinic, the causes or factors that can lead to SIDS are [1] :

  • Brain defects or premature birth. If certain parts of the brain are not developed enough, it can lose control over automatic processes such as breathing and heart rate.
  • Recent respiratory infection. A cold could contribute to respiratory problems.
  • Sleeping position on stomach or side . Babies placed in these sleeping positions may have more difficulty breathing than those placed on their backs.
  • Sleep on soft support. Surfaces such as those of a too soft mattress or a water bed can block the airways of the child.
  • Sharing a bed with parents, siblings or pets.
  • Excessive heat. Too much heat during sleep can increase your baby’s risk of SIDS.

A study carried out and published by the European concerted action on Sids (ECAS) has also highlighted a correlation between cot death syndrome and exposure to passive smoke and tobacco and alcohol consumption during pregnancy .


In Italy

The estimate provided by the reference center of the Lombardy Region, death from SIDS in the region is 1 out of 1000 live births. It can be assumed that this number does not deviate too much from the Italian average.

In the USA

In the USA, after congenital malformations, SIDS is the leading cause of post-neonatal death. According to the National Vital Statistics Reports of October 12, 2004, the incidence of SIDS is about 1.7 per thousand live births.

In the UK

Around 200 children die suddenly and unexpectedly in the UK every year.

According to an official report, 23% of post-neonatal deaths in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2002 were attributable to SIDS.

Risk factors

Although sudden infant death syndrome can affect any baby, some factors that could increase your risk include:

  • The sex of the newborn . Males are slightly more likely to die of SIDS than females.
  • The age of the newborn . Newborns are most vulnerable between the second and fourth month of life.
  • The color of the skin . Black babies are more likely to develop SIDS.
  • The family history . Babies who have had siblings or cousins ​​who die of SIDS are at higher risk for SIDS.
  • Second hand smoke . Children who live with smokers have a higher risk of SIDS.
  • Premature birth and low birth weight . Both premature birth and low birth weight increase the chances of cot death syndrome.
  • The mother is under 20 .
  • The mother smokes cigarettes .
  • The mother uses drugs or alcohol .
  • The newborn has inadequate prenatal care .

Symptoms of “cot death”

There is currently no evidence to suggest the existence of symptoms related to SIDS. The discovery of any symptoms would allow the beginning of a reasoning that could lead to the reduction of the “cot death” syndrome.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform,

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