Enterprise Community Healthy Start

SIDS Information

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the "sudden death of a baby under one year of age. The reason for the baby’s death cannot be explained after a case investigation, which includes a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the baby and mother’s medical history.

Common Characteristics of SIDS

Most researchers now believe that babies who die of SIDS are born with one or more conditions that make them especially vulnerable to stresses that occur in the normal life of an infant. The factors may be both internal and external.

SIDS can occur in all types of families, regardless of race and financial status. SIDS is unexpected, usually occurring in otherwise apparently healthy infants from 1 month to 1 year of age. Most deaths from SIDS occur by the end of the sixth month, with the greatest number taking place between 2 and 4 months of age.

A SIDS death occurs quickly and is often associated with sleep, with no signs of suffering, . More deaths are reported in the fall and winter (in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres) and there is a 60- to 40-percent male-to-female ratio. A death is diagnosed as SIDS only after all other alternatives have been eliminated: SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion.

Risk Factors

Any risk factor may be a clue to finding the cause of a disease, but risk factors by themselves are not causes.

  1. .Risk factors from the mother include:
  2. These factors, which often may be subtle and undetected, suggest that SIDS is somehow related to a harmful prenatal environment.
  3. Environmental and behavioral influences that can provoke ill health:
    • babies who sleep on their stomach (greatest risk)
    • smoking by the mother and by others in the home
    • babies who are covered with blankets
    • babies who sleep in the same bed as the mother (especially if the mother is a smoker)


The following SIDS prevention recommendations include guidelines that may help prevent obstacles that stop a baby's breathing.

  • Place baby on its back on a firm tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
  • Remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, and other soft products from the crib, playpen, or portable crib.
  • Consider using a sleeper or other sleep clothing as an alternative to blankets, with no other covering.
  • If using a blanket, put baby with feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, reaching only as far as the baby's chest.
  • Make sure your baby's head remains uncovered during sleep.
  • Do not place baby on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow, or other soft surface to sleep. Some playpens and portable cribs may have soft mattresses.

If your baby spits up while sleeping on its back, it has the ability to cough and turn its head to prevent choking. If your baby is sleeping on its tummy and spits up, it cannot turn its head to prevent choking. At such a young age, its head is still very heavy and gravity pulls its head downward, preventing it from lifting its head.

When considering the overall number of live births each year, SIDS remains the leading cause of death in the United States among infants between 1 month and 1 year of age and is second only to congenital anomalies as the leading overall cause of death for all infants less than 1 year of age.