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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, more commonly known as SIDS, refers to the sudden death of a child under the age of one that cannon be explained through investigative means. This includes an autopsy, an investigation of the scene, and a medical history of the baby. It is sometimes called "crib death" because SIDS occurs most often in the crib or while sleeping. Death occurs within seconds, and it is generally assumed that the infant does not suffer. One in 500 babies dies from SIDS, and studies have found that African American and Native American babies have a higher incidence of SIDS related deaths. While the cause of SIDS is not known conclusively, there is much speculation on the subject. There are also certain factors which might indicate that an infant is at a higher risk for SIDS than others. Recent educational campaigns have reduced the number of SIDS deaths significantly by pointing out ways that parents can reduce risk.

POSSIBLE CAUSES

The generally accepted cause of SIDS is that the infant is not getting oxygen and asphyxiates. The question of why the infant is not getting enough oxygen has many possible answers. Some studies suggest that SIDS babies are born with an abnormality of the arcuate nucleus, a part of the brain that regulates breathing, heart rate, sleep and waking. Another possible cause is that an infant sleeping on his or her stomach may be rebreathing exhaled carbon dioxide. The bedding in the crib may cause suffocation. Overheating may also play a role in causing SIDS because it leads to deeper sleep, making the baby less easily awakened. This is supported by the fact that SIDS is more common in the winter.

RISK FACTORS

1. Mother under 20 years of age
2. Mother had late or no prenatal care
3. Prematurity or low birth weight
4. Mother smoked before, during, or after pregnancy (Baby has three times the normal risk.)
5. Sleeping on the stomach or "prone position"

PREVENTION

There are simple steps that parents can take to lower the risk of SIDS for their infant. Prepare before your baby's birth by getting good prenatal care and nutrition. Place your baby on his or her back to sleep. Make sure the bedding is firm and that there are no fluffy pillows or blankets in the crib. Keep all stuffed animals out of the crib also. Keep your baby warm, but guard against keeping him or her too warm. Don't let people smoke around your baby. Breastfeeding is a good preventative measure because of the natural antibodies in the mother's milk.