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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) - An Overview

Sudden Infant death syndrome(SIDS), also known as crib death or cot death, is the sudden and unexplained death of a seemingly healthy child who is less than a year old. In most cases, this happens during sleep with no evidence of a struggle or any sort of noise.  

The exact causes of SIDS are unknown but it is associated with a portion of the baby’s brain that controls breathing and waking up from sleep. A few environmental stressors like sleeping on the stomach or side, overheating and exposure to tobacco smoke may always influence SIDS.

Factors

A few physical factors that are associated with SIDS are

1. Brain Defects - Sometimes babies are born with an underlying biological vulnerability that might get exposed to an external trigger during critical stages of development. This makes the infant more likely to die of SIDS.

2. Low birth weight - Babies are more likely to be in the lower weight range if they’re prematurely born. This will increase the chance of the baby’s brain being underdeveloped so s/he will have less control over automatic processes like breathing and heart rate.

3. Respiratory infections - It was observed that many babies who died of SIDS had recently caught a cold which might’ve caused breathing problems.

4. Sleeping on the stomach or on the side - Placing an infant to sleep on his or her stomach or on the side increases the chances of SIDS as they might have difficulty breathing. It is also recommended not to cramp up the crib space by filling it up with stuffed toys and excessive bedding.

5. Smoking - Chances of SIDS are higher for babies whose mothers would’ve smoked during pregnancy or even if the baby is exposed to tobacco smoke after birth.

6. Sex - SIDS is more prevalent in male babies than female babies. 

Prevention

1. The right sleeping position - Always place your baby on the back while putting him or her to sleep, especially during the first year.

2. Perfect bedding - Firm mattress is the best choice and also avoid stuffing it up with thick pillows and toys.

3. Keep the temperature in check - Don’t overheat your baby by covering him or her up with layers of clothing, rather use a sleep sack to keep your baby warm.

4. Breastfeed - If possible breastfeed for at least 6 months to reduce the risk of SIDS.

5. Offering a Pacifier - Use of pacifiers is known to decrease the chances of SIDS although the actual reason is unclear.

6. Vaccination - Evidence shows that Immunizing your baby can help prevent SIDS. 

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