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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Rachel Heitmann defines sudden infant death syndrome, explains the causes, and discusses when sudden infant death syndrome is likely to occur.

Learn more about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

Begin Transcript

Stacey Bonner: Welcome to this episode of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Podcast. I am Stacey Bonner with the Child and Family Center.

Sudden infant death syndrome is sometimes called crib death. Rachel Heitmann, Program Director at the Tennessee Department of Health is joining me to speak about SIDS. Rachel, what is sudden infant death syndrome?

Rachel Heitmann: Sudden infant death syndrome is the sudden death of an infant under 1 year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death seen, and review of the infants medical history.

Stacey Bonner: What is SIDS?

Rachel Heitmann: In Tennessee, we are finding that many of the deaths that used to be classified as SIDS are now determined to have been caused by an unsafe sleep environment. In 2011, we had 109 sleep-related deaths and only 12 SIDS deaths. Sleep-related deaths are deaths caused by something in the sleep environment such as not placing a baby to sleep on their back or putting blanket, stuffed animals, and other objects in the crib.

Stacey Bonner: When is SIDS is most likely to occur?

Rachel Heitmann: Most SIDS deaths occur when a baby is between 1 and 4 months old, and 90% of SIDS deaths occur before 6 months of age.

Stacey Bonner: Is there anything parents can do to prevent SIDS?

Rachel Heitmann: There is no way to predict which newborns will die from SIDS and no way to prevent it in all cases. However, there are lifesaving steps parents and caregivers can take to help protect their baby from SIDS, suffocation, and accidents during sleep. Parents should always follow the ABCs of safe sleep, and that is to place the baby alone on their back and in a crib. You should keep loose objects, soft toys, and bedding out of the baby sleep area. Do not use pillows, blankets, or bumper pads in a babys crib. A baby should sleep in a crib with only a tight-fitting sheet. It is natural for parents to want to surround their baby with cute objects, but we have to remember that infants do not have strong neck muscles to raise their heads to prevent suffocation. Following the ABCs, the B is for back, and parents should always place babies on their backs to sleep at night and at nap time and do not place them on their side or their stomach. Babies should always sleep in a crib, not in an adult bed, or on a couch, and the safest place for baby to sleep is in the same room as the parents but alone in a separate sleep area. In addition to those ABCs of safe sleep, there are several other tips for parents to reduce the risk of sleep-related death and SIDS. Parents should avoid letting their baby over heat during the night. A baby should be dressed lightly for sleep, and the room temperature should be in a range that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult. Smoking should be avoided. That includes both maternal smoking during pregnancy and second-hand smoke exposure after birth. Breastfeeding for the first year of life is also recommended for a number of health benefits and regular prenatal care and making sure your baby receives all recommended immunizations are additional tips for parents.

Stacey Bonner: Are some babies more at risk for SIDS than others?

Rachel Heitmann: African American babies are nearly 2.5 times more likely to die from SIDS than Caucasian babies, and Native American babies are nearly 3 times more likely to die from SIDS. And some other circumstances that can create a higher risk include things such as a baby born to mother who smoked during or after pregnancy babies placed to sleep on their stomachs or side, babies who share a sleep surface, babies who are premature or low-birth weight, babies born to mothers who are less than 20 years old at the time of their first pregnancy, and babies born to mothers with too short an interval between pregnancies.

Stacey Bonner: Where can a person find more information about SIDS?

Rachel Heitmann: You can find more information on the Tennessee Department of Health Safe Sleep website at

Stacey Bonner: Thank you, Rachel.

Rachel Heitmann: Thanks.

Stacey Bonner: Thanks for listening.

-- end of recording --

Posted 2013-10-25 06:00:33.