While Sudden Infant Death can strike any infant, researches have noted several factors that may increase a baby's risk.
Research indicates that some infants are at a higher risk of SIDS because of certain risk factors identified during the pregnancy:
Several factors increase a baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
2009 State of Nebraska Child Death Review Team Report:
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.
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; 90% of cases occur before 6 months of age. Babies continue to be at risk for SIDS up to 12 months.
Many of the 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. Research shows that at the time of death, some SIDS babies have decreased levels of serotonin. An underlying brain abnormality may also make the baby vulnerable.
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."(5)
All three conditions of the Triple Risk Model need to be present for SIDS to occur:
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.
Researchers have discovered some protective measures you can take to help protect your baby from SIDS. Breastfeeding and a safe sleep environment can help.
What does a safe sleep environment look like? On their back, in their own crib, every time.
Print Safe Sleep Environment.
Breastfeeding studies have shown a decreased incidence of SIDS in breastfed babies. Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing babies with the nutrition needed for healthy growth and development. “Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large".(6) The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of life, with continued breastfeeding along with doctor recommended baby food up to two years of age or beyond. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of hospitalization with gastrointestinal and respiratory infections.
A meta-analysis of 23 studies published up to 1997 examining the relationship between SIDS and breastfeeding found the overall risk of SIDS twice as great for formula fed infants compared with breastfed infants. Infant sleep studies have shown that breastfed infants are more easily aroused than formula-fed infants, which may be a mechanism for the protective effect of breastfeeding against SIDS.(7)
Breast-feeding reduces the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by approximately 50% at all ages throughout infancy. Exclusive breast-feeding at age 1 month was associated with half the risk for SIDS. Both partial breast-feeding and exclusive breast-feeding were linked to a reduced risk for SIDS. Ever breastfeeding was associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
The advice to breastfeed should be included as a prevention measure. Mothers need to be cautious about breastfeeding in bed or any situation where you may fall asleep while breastfeeding your baby. Always place the baby back in his or her crib or bassinet after breastfeeding.(8) On their back, in their own crib, every time.
Documents used in the development of this content: