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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome


The safest position in which to place a sleeping child is on its back. The safest position in which to place a sleeping child is on its back.

October is SIDS awareness month, a time to become informed on reducing the incidence of SIDS and co-sleeping related deaths in Guilford County.

From 2009-2013, six babies died due to SIDS, according to the State Center for Health Statistics. SIDS is defined as the sudden, unexpected death of a healthy infant less than one year of age. Generally most infants are less than six months old who have been asleep and are later found lifeless without any warning or signs of distress. The cause of death remains unknown despite a careful review of the medical history, scene investigation, and autopsy. If the child’s death remains unexplained after a formal investigation, the death is then attributed to SIDS.

Additionally, in 2013-2014, seven infants died due to unsafe sleep practices. These include co-sleeping with adults, sleeping on a sofa, or being placed on their stomachs for sleep.

What are some of the common risk factors associated with SIDS and co-sleeping?

The risk for SIDS generally peaks in infants two to four months of age and then declines. SIDS rarely occurs during the first month of life. SIDS usually occurs during periods of sleep. Many experts feel SIDS may be caused by a problem with the infant’s brain that controls breathing combined with the baby being put in an unsafe sleep environment. Cribs/basinets that are cluttered with toys, blankets, or pillows. Babies born early are at a greater risk. SIDS is diagnosed when all other recognizable causes of infant death have been ruled out.

What can a parent do to reduce the risk of SIDS?

Prevention starts before your baby is born. It is important for expectant mothers to get early and regular prenatal care, don’t smoke, drink or use drugs. After the baby arrives, maintain a smoke-free environment around your baby at all times. Babies exposed to second hand smoke are at an increased risk for SIDS. Always put your baby on its back to sleep, whether at night or for naps. Use a pacifier when putting your baby down to sleep. If it falls out do not place back in baby’s mouth. The safest place for infants to sleep is in their own crib, pack n play or bassinet near their parents to allow for feeding and comforting (Share a room not bed). Sleeping on a bed or sofa with an infant is extremely dangerous. Co-sleeping or bed sharing with infants is a risk factor for SIDS—infants are at highest risk if younger than three months or if the parents smoke, use illicit drugs or consume alcohol. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of SIDS and therefore mothers should be encouraged to breast feed for this reason, as well as other health benefits.

The Guilford County Child Fatality Prevention (CFPT) and Safe Kids Guilford County continue to partner with other agencies to reduce infant and child deaths. For more information, call (336) 641-7777.