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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

The sudden and unexpected death of a healthy child who is younger than one year old, usually during sleep. The cause of sudden infant death syndrome is not known.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Health care providers and researchers don't know the exact cause, but there are many theories.

More and more research evidence suggests that infants who die from SIDS are born with brain abnormalities or defects. These defects are typically found within a network of nerve cells that rely on a chemical called serotonin that allows one nerve cell to send a signal to another nerve cell. The cells are located in the part of the brain that probably controls breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and waking from sleep.

But scientists believe that brain defects alone may not be enough to cause a SIDS death. Evidence suggests that other events must also occur for an infant to die from SIDS.

Researchers use the Triple-Risk Model to explain this concept. In this model, all three factors have to occur for an infant to die from SIDS. Having only one of these factors may not be enough to cause death from SIDS, but when all three combine, the chances of SIDS are high....Read more about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome NIH - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Infant pacifiers for reduction in risk of sudden infant death syndrome

Sudden unexpected death of an infant generally occurs during sleep from birth to one year of age but mainly occurs between one and four months of age. Despite the success of several prevention campaigns, sudden infant death syndrome remains a leading cause of infant mortality (death). A variety of factors have been identified as increasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome such as male sex, preterm (before the due date) birth, overheating, exposure to cigarette smoke, and infants lying on their stomachs. Pacifier use has been proposed as a non‐invasive intervention to reduce the risk of SIDS. This review was undertaken to examine whether infant pacifiers can reduce the risk of SIDS.

Association between pacifier use and breast-feeding, sudden infant death syndrome, infection and dental malocclusion

OBJECTIVE: To critically review all literature related to pacifier use for full-term healthy infants and young children. The specific review questions addressed are: What is the evidence of adverse and/or positive outcomes of pacifier use in infancy and childhood in relation to each of the following subtopics: • breast-feeding; • sudden infant death syndrome; • infection; • dental malocclusion.

Can home monitoring reduce mortality in infants at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome? A systematic review

This review found that there was insufficient evidence that home monitoring of infants can reduce the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome. Reporting flaws mean that the results should be interpreted with some caution but the authors' conclusions on the paucity of good quality evidence are likely to be reliable.

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Summaries for consumers

Infant pacifiers for reduction in risk of sudden infant death syndrome

Sudden unexpected death of an infant generally occurs during sleep from birth to one year of age but mainly occurs between one and four months of age. Despite the success of several prevention campaigns, sudden infant death syndrome remains a leading cause of infant mortality (death). A variety of factors have been identified as increasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome such as male sex, preterm (before the due date) birth, overheating, exposure to cigarette smoke, and infants lying on their stomachs. Pacifier use has been proposed as a non‐invasive intervention to reduce the risk of SIDS. This review was undertaken to examine whether infant pacifiers can reduce the risk of SIDS.

What types of studies are there?

There are various types of scientific studies such as experiments and comparative analyses, observational studies, surveys, or interviews. The choice of study type will mainly depend on the research question being asked.

Effect of restricted pacifier use on duration of breastfeeding in full‐term infants

A pacifier, used to calm an infant, has become a cultural norm in many parts of the world. Unlimited pacifier use might cause nipple confusion in newborn and hence early termination of breastfeeding. We wanted to explore the effect of restricting the use of a pacifier on the duration of breastfeeding.

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More about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Photo of a baby

Also called: Cot death, Crib death

Other terms to know:
Neurotransmitters, Respiratory System, Sleep

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