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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Risk Factors & Prevention

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  • 0:01 SIDS
  • 1:04 Risk Factors
  • 3:03 Preventing SIDS
  • 4:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

The leading cause of death for children under the age of one is a large mystery to many people. In this lesson, we'll look closer at Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, including risk factors and prevention measures.

SIDS

Julie is expecting a baby. She's really excited but also very scared. You see, several years ago, Julie had a baby girl named Maria. Though Julie did her best to care for the baby, Maria died suddenly when she was just four months old. The doctors couldn't figure out what caused Maria's death, and Julie was heartbroken.

The official cause of death for Maria was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, which is when an infant under one year of age dies suddenly and without explanation. It is the leading cause of death for babies under 12 months old and usually strikes babies who are healthy.

Though Julie has dealt with her grief and tried to move on with her life, she's really scared for her new baby. Could the new baby die of SIDS, too? What can Julie do to protect the new baby? Let's look closer at the risk factors for SIDS and what parents like Julie can do to try to prevent SIDS from happening to their babies.

Risk Factors

When Maria died, Julie was depressed. She had a hard time dealing with it. Now that she's managed to move on enough to get pregnant again, she feels terrified that it will happen again after she has her baby. Maria seemed healthy, and Julie thought she'd done everything right, so what could have caused SIDS to kill Maria?

There are many risk factors for SIDS, but no one risk factor can predict who will get SIDS and who will not. But the more risk factors a baby has, the more likely it is that the baby will die of SIDS.

Cold weather and being between 2 and 4 months old both increase the risk of SIDS. This makes sense, since Maria was only 4 months old when she died, and it happened in February.

Not only that but Julie smoked while she was pregnant with Maria, and she smoked after Maria was born. Tobacco, alcohol, and drug use during pregnancy and tobacco smoke exposure after birth are also both risk factors for SIDS.

Other risk factors include being underweight at birth, being born early, and being born to a mother who is under 20 years old. While Maria did not have any of those risk factors, she did have one of the biggest risk factors for SIDS: stomach sleeping. Studies have shown that babies who are put down to sleep on their stomachs are at a higher risk for SIDS than those put down on their backs.

There are many theories as to why sleeping on the stomach puts a baby at risk for SIDS, but no one knows exactly why putting a baby down on his or her back helps prevent SIDS. In the early 1990s, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) ran a campaign to inform parents of the risk and encourage them to put their children to sleep on their backs instead of their stomachs. As a result of the campaign, the incidence of SIDS dropped by more than 50%.

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