The death of an infant is a parent’s worst nightmare. Impacted families are doing a lot to share their SIDS stories in hopes of helping scientists identify the cause, warning signs, and risk of SIDS by age. Fortunately, there is optimism in the scientific community. New SIDS research indicates that experts are close to finding answers.
SIDS is currently one of the leading causes of infant mortality in the United States. This condition can occur at any age under one, but it is more prevalent in certain ages compared to others. In this post, we want to break down what we currently know about the condition, and what your options may be if you are affected. Let’s discuss.
What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – is the unexpected death of a baby less than one year old. The infant may appear completely healthy with no abnormalities. Death from SIDS normally occurs while the infant is sleeping in their crib. SIDS is sometimes referred to as “cot death” or “crib death”.
What Causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
The causes of sudden death in infants are largely unknown. However, SIDS research has found some key evidence suggesting many infants impacted by SIDS showed signs of a brain condition affecting nerve cells that control the heart rate and breathing.
Experts recently conducted testing on a chemical known as Butyrylcholinesterase (BChE). The activity of this chemical was found to be substantially lower in babies impacted by SIDS compared to living babies. This SIDS breakthrough is positive news, as doctors can now identify risk factors in infants before death.
Risk Factors of SIDS
There are several common threads seen in SIDS victims related to physical attributes, sleep environments, maternal characteristics, and more.
Physical Factors Associated with SIDS
Based on SIDS research, the leading cause of SIDS can be traced to physical risk factors, including:
This is directly related to BChE. In babies affected by SIDS, the part of the brain that controls breathing and the arousal from sleep does not function properly.
Many babies who died from SIDS had recently experienced a cold. This could play a role in breathing issues.
Low birth weight has been shown to play a role in SIDS. Premature births or multiple births increase the risks of under-development in the baby’s brain, which gives them less control over heart rate and breathing.
There are several risk factors of SIDS that can be traced back to the baby’s sleeping environment.
The Sleeping Surface
Sleeping face down on a soft surface – down blanket, mattress, waterbed, etc., can potentially block airways and put the infant in danger.
Being too warm during the sleep cycle can boost the risk of SIDS. It’s recommended to keep the room between 68 to72 degrees Fahrenheit during the night and avoid heavy blankets in the summertime.
Babies placed on their stomachs or sides during the night could have difficulty breathing. It’s advised to place the infant on their back.
There have been a few commonalities between SIDS cases and the mothers during pregnancy, including:
- The mother smokes cigarettes during pregnancy.
- Uses drugs and alcohol during pregnancy.
- Is below the age of 20.
- Had subpar prenatal care.
- Poor prenatal nutrition
- Had multiple births less than one year apart.
- Had maternal anemia.
Other Risk Factors of SIDS
The risk of SIDS by age is between two and four months.
Male infants are more affected by SIDS than females.
SIDS may run in certain families. Infants who have had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at a greater risk.
Secondhand smoke is bad for all humans. Babies that are consistently exposed have a higher likelihood of SIDS.
How Many Babies Die of SIDS?
According to SIDS research, roughly 2,300 babies are affected by SIDS every year. These fatalities mostly occur in infants four months or younger – most of which happen in the fall, winter, or early spring.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Prevention
As SIDS is a mysterious condition, there is no guaranteed way to prevent it. The good news is there are plenty of precautions that can help reduce the risk, per SIDS research.
Place on Back During Sleep
To reiterate, you want to avoid placing your baby on their stomach or side in the infancy stage. Only place them in other positions if your doctor recommends it. Keep in mind, sitters and caregivers might not know to place the baby on their back. Be sure they know the routine before you leave.
Keep a Minimalist Crib
Any extra objects – like stuffed animals, pillows, and bulky blankets – might interfere with your baby’s breathing. Try to keep the crib or bassinet as bare as possible in the first six months.
As stated above, overheating can be dangerous for an infant. Be sure the room is kept around 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. Try using a sleep cover or sleep clothing that doesn’t require extra covers. You always want to be sure you’re not covering their head.
Try a Pacifier
A pacifier without a strap may reduce the risk of SIDS during the night. If the baby is not interested, don’t force it. Should the pacifier fall out while they are sleeping, do not try and put it back in.
If you are breastfeeding, wait until the baby is at least three to four weeks old and you’ve got an established nursing routine.
What’s the Next Step?
Not many people know about SIDS research, but it’s something every parent should be aware of. Losing an infant unexpectedly is an experience no one should have to go through. If you have lived through this tragedy – or would simply like to learn more about it – speaking with personal injury attorney is a great place to start.
At Midwest Injury Lawyers, we are always happy to answer questions and concerns parents might have. Call us at (312) 786-5881 or send us a message online to get started.