Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

The joy that parents feel when they have a new baby is almost immeasurable. But irrespective of how elated you are, we are sure to be equally nervous or even suffer anxiety about what could possibly go wrong. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Sudden Unexpected Infant Syndrome (SUIS) is one of the major concerns most parents have.  Let’s delve deeper to understand what this is and how to avoid it.

What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

Sudden infant death syndrome, also known as cot/crib death, is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant, less than one year of age. For it to be declared sudden, it is required that their death remains unexplained, even after a thorough: 

  • Post mortem
  •  Autopsy 
  •  Scene of death investigation.

More often than not, sudden infant death syndrome occurs while the baby is asleep. Most reported cases depict that death occurs between 00:00 and 00:09 hours. The most unfortunate thing about SIDS, is that there usually is no evidence of struggle, nor is any noise produced during this gory period. However, SIDS is rare, and the risk of your baby dying from it is low.

Causes of SIDS

While the exact cause of death is unknown, a combination of factors such as a latent susceptibility, a certain time in development, as well as environmental stressors have been known to cause it. Such are:

  • Sleeping on the stomach or side
  • Overheating.
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke.
  • Accidental suffocation, that results from co-sleeping or bed sharing.
  • Baby getting tangled up in bedding, resulting in suffocation.
  • Accidental suffocation, due to lodging of soft objects placed on your infant’s cot 
  • Baby born prematurely (before the required 39 weeks of gestation).
  • Low birth weight.
  • Minor illness.

SIDS can occur when the baby is asleep during the day or, occasionally when they are wide awake. It is, therefore important to practice safe sleep habits at all times.

In Kenya, as well as the rest of the world, it is reported that SIDS is more common in baby boys, than is in baby girls. 

Can You Prevent Your Infant from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

Most sudden infant death cases are preventable. To ensure that your baby does not succumb to it, ensure that you incorporate safe sleeping into your day to day life. Try the following:

  • Always lay your baby to sleep in a supine position (on their back) Read more on safe sleep.
  • Avoid falling asleep with your baby on the couch or armchair.
  • Keep your baby’s cot as bare as possible.
  • Breastfeed your baby exclusively for at least 6 months goes a long way in lowering their risk of SIDS.
  • Ensure that their head and face is uncovered to prevent overheating, suffocation and obstructed breathing. Read on how to swaddle your baby.
  • Offer your baby a pacifier for them to suckle during bed or naptime. However, if you still are breastfeeding, you can offer your baby a pacifier when they are 4 weeks. In the event that your baby does not like the pacifier, do not force it on them.
  • Avoid smoking during and after pregnancy, and ensure that your baby’s room is smoke free.
  • Place your baby’s cot in your bedroom so that you are able to check on them, and to minimize the chance of accidentally sleeping on them.


Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.

Last revised, March 2019

Sources: wikipedia, mayoclinic, webmd, kidshealth, medicinenet, mayoclinic

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