Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a common form of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) that occurs in infants who are less than 1 year old and usually during sleep or within a baby’s sleep area (CDC, 2021). In the United States, approximately 3,400 infants die from a SUID every year, and more than 1,000 of those unexplained deaths are attributed to SIDS (CDC, 2021). This makes SIDS a leading cause of death among infants.
In a new study, researchers found a lower presence of an enzyme, which helps regulate a baby’s breathing, in babies whose deaths were categorized as SIDS. While the cause of SIDS remains unknown, and is believed to be dependent on several factors or causes (Harrington et al., 2022), this finding is a breakthrough in research, and it potentially offers healthcare professionals a better understanding of infant sleep-related deaths.
The CDC (2021) recommends parents and caregivers create safe sleeping areas for babies by doing the following:
- Place your baby on their back for all sleep times – naps and at night.
- Use a firm, flat sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet.
- Keep your baby’s sleep area, like a crib or bassinet, in the same room where you sleep until your baby is at least 6 months old or, ideally, until your baby is 1 year old.
- Keep soft bedding items such as blankets, pillows, bumper pads, and soft toys out of your baby’s sleep area.
- Do not cover your baby’s head or allow your baby to overheat.
Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, 2016) offers the following recommendations to help reduce the risk of SIDS:
- Do not smoke during pregnancy, and do not smoke or allow anyone to smoke around your baby.
- Do not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs during pregnancy.
- Breastfeed your baby.
- Visit your baby’s healthcare provider for regular checkups. Your baby will receive important shots to prevent diseases.
- Offer your baby a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. If you are breastfeeding your baby, you may want to wait to use a pacifier until breastfeeding is well established.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- About SUID and SIDS: https://www.cdc.gov/sids/about/index.htm
American Academy of Pediatrics
- How to Keep your Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx#:~:text=Place%20your%20baby’s%20crib%2C%20bassinet,comfort%2C%20and%20watch%20your%20baby
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016, November 1). SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics, 138(5), e20162938. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2938
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, April 28). Sudden unexpected infant death and sudden infant death syndrome. https://www.cdc.gov/sids/data.htm#:~:text=SIDS%20rates%20declined%20considerably%20from,when%20rates%20began%20to%20increase
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, June 15). About SUID and SIDS. https://www.cdc.gov/sids/about/index.htm
Harrington, C. T., Al Hafid, N., & Waters, K. A. (2022, June). Butyrylcholinesterase is a potential biomarker for sudden infant death syndrome. eBioMedicine, 80, 104041. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2022.104041