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.


“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



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