Researchers use the Triple-Risk Model for examining Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The Triple-Risk Model defines three conditions, that when combined, may lead to a death from SIDS.
Critical Development: During the baby’s first 6 months of life there is rapid change and development in the brain. This growth may be evident like the sleep and awake patterns, or very subtle changes may be seen like changes in respiration, blood pressure, or temperature. The peak incidence of SIDS occurs between 1 – 4 months of age with 90% occurring before 6 months of age. Babies continue to be at risk for SIDS up to 12 months.
Vulnerable Infant: A great deal of babies that die of SIDS have had some form of upper respiratory infection in the prior 4 weeks. Babies born early (premature) are at a higher risk. Some research shows that at the time of death, some SIDS babies have increased levels of serotonin. An underlying brain abnormality may also make the baby vulnerable.
Outside Stressors: Most babies can survive environmental stressors like second hand smoke, over-heating and sleeping on their stomachs. However, babies that are vulnerable may not be able to overcome these outside stressors. “Although these stressors are not believed to single-handedly cause infant death, they may tip the balance against a vulnerable infant’s chances of survival.”(1)
All three conditions of the Triple Risk Model need be present for SIDS to occur:
Undetected vulnerability in the babyndetected vulnerability in the baby;
The baby is in a critical developmental period of growth, and;
Outside stressors are present.
Risk reduction means removing as many challenges from the baby’s environment as possible during their first year of life. Position the baby on their back to sleep or remove second hand smoke. Eliminating one or more of the outside stressors can reduce the risk of SIDS.
(1) Research on Possible Causes of SIDS. Safe to Sleep Public Education Campaign. [Online] 09 23, 2013. [Cited: 07 09, 2014.] NICHD