SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME
Imagine the thought of a mother going in to her child's room and kissing her baby good
night. Expecting to hear the gentle breath of her baby all that she hears is silence.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the "sudden death of an infant under one year of
age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance
of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical
history" (Willinger, et al., 1991).
More children die of SIDS in a year that all who die of cancer, heart disease, pneumonia,
child abuse, AIDS, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy combined. Many researchers now
believe that babies who die of SIDS are born with one or more conditions that make them
especially vulnerable to stresses that occur in the normal life of an infant, including
both internal and external influences. SIDS occurs in all types of families and is
largely indifferent to race or socioeconomic level. SIDS is unexpected, usually occurring
in otherwise apparently healthy infants from 1 month to 1 year of age. Most deaths from
SIDS occur by the end of the sixth month, with the greatest number taking place between 2
and 4 months of age. A SIDS death occurs quickly and is often associated with sleep, with
no signs of suffering. More deaths are reported in the fall and winter and there is a
60-to-40-percent male-to-female ratio. A death is diagnoses as SIDS only after all other
alternatives have been eliminated: SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion (Willinger, et al.,
Risk factors are those environmental and behavioral influences that can provoke ill
health. Any risk factor may be a clue to finding the cause of a disease, but risk factors
in and of themselves are not causes. Researchers now know that the mother's health and
behavior during her pregnancy and the baby's health before birth seem to influence the
occurrence of SIDS, but these variables are not reliable in...