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Family Medicine

Understand the Risks to Prevent SIDS

Understand the Risks to Prevent SIDS “Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is the unexpected death of an infant as old as 1 year of age, who was well prior to death and whose death remains unexplained after an autopsy,” says Alfred Gitu, M.D., family medicine physician. “Infants who are 2-9 months of age are at risk of SIDS, but the peak incidence occurs around 3 or 4 months.”

Dr. Gitu says there are other risk factors for SIDS— some that can be modified and others that cannot.

Modifiable risk factors include:

  • Maternal smoking during and/or after pregnancy
  • Infant exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Parental history of alcohol or drug use
  • Prone sleeping position—lying flat—and sleeping on sheepskin or with a pillow
  • Bed sharing, especially when the baby is younger than 13 weeks of age
  • Covering the baby’s head during sleep
  • The use of duvets, quilts, blankets, pillows or the presence of other children
  • Baby sleeping in a room other than the parents’ bedroom

Nonmodifiable risk factors include:

  • Low birth weight or prematurity
  • Increasing parity—mother had two or more previous live births
  • Being male

“Parents should know that SIDS is associated with more than one risk factor in 96 percent of infant deaths,” Dr. Gitu says. “The American Academy of Pediatrics has a number of recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS.”

Recommendations include:

  • Pregnant women should receive regular prenatal care
  • Avoid smoke exposure, alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth
  • Breastfeed the baby
  • Infant should sleep in supine position—on his or her back—for every sleep until 1 year of age
  • Use firm sleep surface
  • Avoid soft materials and loose bedding in sleeping environment
  • Infants should sleep in the same room with parents, but should not share the same bed
  • Avoid infant overheating
  • Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime
  • Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations
  • Supervised, awake tummy time
  • Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS

Dr. Gitu adds that cosleeping—a practice where the baby shares a bed or sleeps on a sofa with one or both parents—is a risky practice and should be avoided. “Sleeping in the same room as parents is beneficial,” he says. “But, no study has shown any benefit of cosleeping.”

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“Parents should know that SIDS is associated with more than one risk factor in 96 percent of infant deaths, ” Dr. Gitu says.

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Alfred Gitu, M.D.
Family Medicine
Lee Physician Group
2780 Cleveland Avenue
Suite 709
Fort Myers, FL 33901
239-343-3831

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