SIDS is defined when a baby dies during sleep and we never find a cause even after an investigation of the death scene and complete autopsy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,500 infants died of SIDS in 2013 and is the leading cause of death in infants 1 to 12 months old.

It is important to also know the difference between SIDS and Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID).

SUID is any sudden death that includes SIDS, but may also include suffocation. For example, if a baby was caught under a crib bumper. I think it’s important to make the distinction because parents carry a lot of guilt when a baby dies of SIDS. People assume that the baby wasn’t put to bed safely, but the parents did everything right and the baby still died. If a baby dies during sleep, but they were on their stomach or were under a blanket, then it is called SUID.

It is important parents learn more about SIDS and SUID. The most significant step parents can take is to create a safe place for their baby to sleep. I recommend that babies sleep on their back with a pacifier (without an attachment) in a room with a fan. It is important that your baby not be too warm. Infants should be up-to-date with their vaccinations. Infants who are breastfed are also at a decreased risk of SIDS.

Babies should sleep in cribs free of toys, blankets, etc. and bed sharing is not recommended. A multi-study analysis showed that bed sharing for breastfed infants with no associated risk factors is associated with 2.7 times increased risk of SUID. Place baby in a bassinet next to you instead. If your child is in daycare, don’t hesitate to ask to see the sleep environment and ask about their sleep policy.

SUID can happen during any sleep time, even naps. Also if your baby falls asleep in a car seat/swing/bouncy seat, move them to a safe place to sleep. For parents, knowledge is key to helping your baby sleep soundly and safely.

To learn more, visit the CDC’s website:

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Heather Felton, M.D.

Dr. Heather Felton is medical director of UofL Pediatrics – Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre. She is also an assistant professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and her medical degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She is a member of the American Medical Association, Kentucky Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and Group of Women in Medicine and Science. Her specialty is pediatrics. Dr. Felton’s areas of interest include safety and injury prevention; improving anticipated guidance provided to families during check-ups; and advocating for children’s safety.

All posts by Heather Felton, M.D.
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