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SIDS Facts

What is SIDS ?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is defined as "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 a review of the clinical history."

The death is sudden and unpredictable; in most cases, the baby seems healthy. Death occurs quickly, usually while asleep.

Much research is being conducted into the causes of SIDS. Yet after 30 years of research, scientists still cannot point to one definite cause or causes. There is no way to predict or prevent the occurrence of SIDS. But, as described below, research has found some things that can be done to help reduce the risk of SIDS.

• SIDS deaths occur unexpectedly and quickly to apparently healthy infants, usually during periods of sleep.

• Most SIDS victims are between two and four months of age.

• SIDS occurs in families of all races and socioeconomic levels.

• SIDS can not be predicted or prevented.

• SIDS is NOT caused by suffocation, choking, immunizations or vaccinations. It is not contagious, nor is it a result of neglected illness or child abuse.

• SIDS can, and does, claim any baby, in spite of parents doing everything right.

Risk Reduction

1. Put your healthy baby on its back to sleep - If your baby has problems breathing or spits up a lot after feeding, ask your doctor about how your baby should sleep.

2. No smoking near the baby - Do not smoke during pregnancy and do not let others smoke near your baby.

3. Do not let your baby get too hot - Dress your baby in as much or as little as you would wear. Do not wrap your baby in lots of blankets or clothes. If your baby is sweating, has damp hair, or a heat rash, he or she may be too hot. A baby that has a fever, is breathing fast, or is not able to rest, may also be too hot.

4. Put your baby to sleep on a firm mattress - Do not let the baby sleep on soft things, like cushions, pillows, blankets, the couch, sheepskins, foam pads, or waterbeds.

5. Take good care of yourself and your baby - When pregnant, see your doctor often and do not use drugs or alcohol. Talk with your baby's doctor about changes in your baby and how your baby acts.

6. If possible, breast feed your baby - Breast feeding has been shown to be good for your baby.

7. Please Don't Forget to enjoy your new baby!!

U.S. "Back To Sleep" campaign

The U.S. "Back To Sleep" campaign was launched in June 1994 by the U.S. Public Health Service, American Academy of Pediatrics, SIDS Alliance, and Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs, with endorsements by over 60 organizations. This campaign reflects the single most significant development in our medical understanding of SIDS to date: babies sleeping on their stomachs seem to be more likely to succumb to SIDS.

Armed with this important new finding, outreach strategies and materials were developed targeting the parents of the nearly four million babies expected this year. Through promotion of feature stories and media coverage, the availability of a nationwide toll-free information and referral hotline, the production of television, radio, and print ads, and distribution of an information brochure, the U.S. Back To Sleep campaign has gained awareness and momentum. As of 1998, the National Center for Health Statistics reported a 42% drop in SIDS death rates crediting saturation of the Back To Sleep message and the resultant change in parental practice. This is the equivalent of sparing the lives of nearly 2,000 American babies each year.

Studies have shown that infant stomach sleeping in the United States has decreased from 70 percent before the campaign to 21 percent in 1997, simultaneously the death rate from SIDS has dropped 42 percent.

"The reduction in SIDS deaths is a direct result of the Back to Sleep Campaign," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the NICHD. "The campaign has proven successful in educating the medical field, parents, grandparents, and care givers about the importance of putting babies to sleep on their back to significantly reduce the risk of SIDS."

Despite this progress, many people still haven't heard the Back To Sleep message, and SIDS remains the major cause of death for infants one month to one year of age, claiming the lives of nearly 3,000 babies in the U.S. each year. Our goal is to get the Back To Sleep message out to everyone who cares for infants--parents, grandparents, day care workers, babysitters, siblings--so that we can all play a role in providing a better future for America's families. Though it is clear that following SIDS risk reduction recommendations faithfully will still not prevent all SIDS deaths, and any baby may be vulnerable to SIDS despite parents' best efforts, we urge you to join us in this campaign to give infants the best possible chance to thrive.

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