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10.20.22 – What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

Hi, I’m Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the Health Officer for Anne Arundel County. Welcome to our Weekly Health Update. October is Safe Sleep Month and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month. It’s a good time to share information with parents, family members and caregivers on reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS, is when a child under one-year-old dies and that death can’t be explained after a thorough review of the baby’s medical history. SIDS is the most common cause of unexplained death in infants. These deaths often happen during sleep or in the baby’s sleep area. While the SIDS rate has dropped dramatically over the years, it remains a major cause of death in infants between 1 month and 1 year of age, with most deaths occurring between 2 and 4 months.

What are the risk factors for SIDS?

There are a few risk factors for SIDS.

  • Babies who are born premature or with low birth weight are 2 to 3 times more likely to die of SIDS or other sleep-related deaths.
  • Babies sleeping on their stomach or side.
  • Exposure to tobacco, marijuana and alcohol during pregnancy or exposure to tobacco and marijuana as a baby.

What can be done to prevent SIDS?

  • Evidence shows that an infant should always sleep alone on his or her back in a crib. An easy way to remember this is with the phrase ‘Back to Sleep’.
  • Always have your baby sleep on a firm, flat surface like a mattress with a fitted sheet. 
  • Nothing should be in the crib that could potentially cover a baby’s nose or mouth, such as soft bedding or stuffed animals.
  • Infants should sleep in your room and close to your bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for at least the first six months.
  • Never smoke cigarettes or marijuana around your baby or let anyone smoke or use substances around your baby. 
  • Breastfeed infants for at least the first six months if possible.

Share this information with anyone caring for an infant including family members, babysitters, and daycare providers. We have resources including videos and a baby care kit on aahealth.org.

Stay safe and be kind to yourself and others. We’ll see you next week.

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