Prepared by Barbara Sweeney for Dreamlife
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — known as “SIDS” — is the leading cause of death in infants in the United States. Many more children die of SIDS than any other problem, including AIDS, cancer, pneumonia, child abuse, etc.
The statistics are staggering. More than 7,000 babies die each year due to this syndrome, which breaks down to almost one baby per hour. One of the most frightening facts is that most SIDS victims appear perfectly healthy prior to their demise and exhibit no warning signs.
The medical community defines SIDS as the sudden death of an infant that remains unexplained even after an autopsy and complete study of the situation has been performed. Usually, SIDS strikes when an infant is sleeping. Babies between the ages of one month and one year are the most vulnerable, and the highest number of deaths occurs between two and four months of age. It has been noted that SIDS is more common in the fall and winter months. Also, by a margin of 3-2, boys die more than girls; and SIDS seems to strike all races and classes fairly evenly.
Even though SIDS has been known for centuries to claim the lives of babies, doctors still have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of death in SIDS cases. Scientists are investigating the development and function of the nervous system, the brain, the heart, breathing and sleeping patterns, balances of body chemicals, environmental factors, and other functions as they relate to SIDS. But no reliable prevention technique has been developed against the condition.
Still, the National SIDS Resource Center recommends the following techniques to help reduce the risk of SIDS:
- Do not put babies to sleep on their stomachs.
- Do not smoke during pregnancy.
- Seek good prenatal care.
- Do not do drugs while pregnant.
- Gain adequate weight while pregnant.
# Eat a healthy diet prescribed by your doctor during pregnancy.
Other risk factors include: birth to a mother who is under 20 years of age, who has anemia, who has a history of sexually transmitted diseases, or who has a history of urinary tract infections.
Remember, risk factors alone do not cause SIDS. All these suggestions help, but much more medical research is essential. There just are not enough answers at present. But it is in our power to at least try to reduce the number of fatalities by changing some routine behaviors that may contribute to SIDS.