Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Sleep

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  • is watching the child. This "tummy time" is good for the baby because it can help develop neck and shoulder muscles.

  • Sleeping on the back is unhealthy because it causes flattening of the back of the head.

    Flat spots on the back of the infant’s head tend to go away within a few months after he or she learns to sit up. Placing the baby on his or her stomach while awake and cuddling the baby in the upright position can also help reduce flat spots. Periodically changing the direction the babies head when he or she is put down is also recommended.


SIDS is the diagnosis given when an infant under one year of age dies suddenly, and the incident cannot be explained by recent illnesses, medical history, an autopsy or the death scene itself. Since SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion, given when the investigation provides no other explanation, there is not a specific list of symptoms to determine whether a baby is in danger of succumbing to SIDS. However, risk factors have been identified and include:

  • Sleeping in the prone position (stomach sleeping)
  • Soft bedding or unsafe beds (couches, daybeds, waterbeds)
  • Loose bedding such as blankets and pillows
  • Overheating due to clothing, blankets or room temperature
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Mother smoking during pregnancy
  • Mother’s age younger than 20 years
  • Mother receiving late or no prenatal care
  • Premature birth or low birth weight
  • Recovering or having recently recovered from a respiratory or intestinal infection



There is no treatment for SIDS. However, there are things that can be done to reduce the risk of SIDS. While the exact cause of SIDS is unknown, researchers have identified steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of SIDS. Starting during pregnancy, mothers can reduce their children’s risk of SIDS through frequent medical check-ups, proper nutrition and avoiding tobacco, alcohol and drug use.

When caring for an infant, the following steps can also reduce the risk of SIDS:

  • Place the baby to sleep on his or her back.

    Since the early 1990s, when the National Institutes of

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