SIDS Facts Every Parent Should Know

What is SIDS?

SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (also cot death and crib death) is the term used to describe the sudden and unexplained death of any baby under 12 months of age. SIDS usually occurs at night, when the baby is sleeping and for an official diagnosis the death must be recognised and recorded as ‘unexplained’ even after detailed investigations.

What causes it?

Unfortunately, the exact cause is still unknown, but there are certain factors taken into consideration when SIDS has occurred. Sometimes there may be an underlying susceptibility to this syndrome, or it may be associated with the baby’s developmental stage. Environmental factors are also considered; sleeping on the side or the stomach, the presence of cigarette smoke, overheating and accidental suffocation are all possible contributors.

Is it common?

Around 80 in every 100 SUIDs (Sudden and Unexplained Infant Deaths) are diagnosed as SIDS. Others causes of SUIDs include premature birth, genetic disorders, heart problems and undiagnosed infections. SIDS is far less common in developed countries and in Australia, the incidence of SIDS is 0.84 per 1,000 live births. Babies born to teenage mothers seem to be more prone to SIDS than those born to older mothers and records do indicate that boys are more at risk of SIDS than girls.

Can we reduce the risks?

Luckily there is plenty of advice we can follow to reduce the risk factors that seem to be related to this rather poorly understood syndrome.

  • If under a year old, put your child to sleep on their back
  • Use a firm and even mattress
  • Put your baby to bed separately, but nearby
  • Do not provide too much loose, bunched bedding or soft toys
  • Keep the sleeping environment cool with good air circulation, avoid placing the cot near a radiator, heater, or in direct sunshine
  • Avoid exposure to tobacco smoke and smoking when pregnant
  • Tuck your baby in so that their head in uncovered
  • The use of a dummy or pacifier has been linked to reduced risks
  • Breastfeed if possible
  • Always immunise your little one

Should my childcare centre know about SIDS?

Yes. Any reputable childcare centre should educate their staff and support parents regarding the avoidance of the SIDS risk factors. At our Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning and Childcare Centres in NSW, we closely follow the advice and support offered by SIDS and Kids, a national not-for-profit organisation.

For their 24-hour bereavement support line please call 1300 308 307.