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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS, also known as cot death and crib death), is the term for the sudden and unexplained death of an apparently healthy infant aged one month to one year. SIDS is a definition of exclusion and only applies to an infant whose death remains unexplained after the performance of an adequate postmortem investigation including (1) an autopsy[?], (2) investigation of the scene and circumstances of the death and (3) exploration of the medical history[?] of the infant and family. Generally, but not always, the infant is found dead after having been put to sleep and exhibits no signs of having suffered. The inexplicable nature of the syndrome often leaves parents with a deep sense of guilt in addition to their grief.

Very little is known about the possible causes of SIDS. Although there is no known way to prevent it, research has provided several risk factors which are related to an increased incidence of the syndrome. These include:

Prenatal Risks

Post-natal Risks

  • low birth weight (especially less than 1.6 kg / 3.5 lbs)
  • exposure to tobacco smoke
  • laying an infant to sleep on his or her stomach (see positional plagiocephaly)
  • failure to breastfeed
  • excess clothing and overheating
  • excess bedding, soft sleep surface and stuffed animals
  • gender (60% of deaths occur in males)
  • age (incidence is higher between 2-4 months)

In addition, research indicates a reduced risk of SIDS in conjunction with a safe co-sleeping[?] arrangement. Though findings are still preliminary, the proximity of a parent's respiration is thought to stimulate proper respiratory development in the infant.

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