Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (also known as SIDS) is a term used to describe the sudden and unexplained death of a healthy infant aged one month to one year old. About 90% of SIDS deaths occur in infants younger than 6 months. Very little is known about the causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and there are no proven methods for prevention. Most SIDS victims appear healthy prior to their death. Usually the infant is found dead after having been put to bed, and has no signs of distress or suffering. If the baby's death remains unexplained after investigating the circumstances (including a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene and a medical history review of the baby and family), the death is attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS is responsible for fewer deaths than congenital disorders and disorders related to a short gestation time. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is rare during the first month of life, but is the leading cause of death in healthy babies after one month of age to six months of age. SIDS cases occur mostly between eight and ten weeks after birth.
The frequency of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome depends on infant sex, age, ethnicity, and the education and socio-economic status of the parents. African American babies are more than two times as likely to die of SIDS as Caucasian babies. American Indian/Alaska Native babies are nearly three times as likely to die of SIDS as Caucasian babies. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is also known as crib death in in North America, cot death in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, and has been happening to babies for thousands of years. Old Testament - 1 Kings 3:19: "And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it" (carbon dioxide asphyxiation?).
A study funded by the National Institutes of Health was published in the October 2007 Journal of the American Medical Association states that babies who die of SIDS have abnormalities in the part of the brain called the medulla oblongata, which controls the functions of breathing, blood pressure and arousal. Researchers examined the brains of 31 babies that died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and 10 that died from other causes. They discovered that the medulla oblongata had neurons that released the chemical serotonin. The number of neurons in babies that died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was 55% greater in the brains of the babies who died of SIDS. They also found the babies had fewer receptors for serotonin and these abnormalities in the brain stem affect the brain's ability to use and recycle serotonin, which regulates mood and vital body functions. This evidence suggests that differences in specific parts of the brain may place some babies at increased risk of dying from SIDS. Studies indicate that boys have significantly fewer serotonin binding sites than girls.
A British study released on May 29, 2008 discovered that the common bacterial infections Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and Escherichia coli (E. coli) may cause some cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. "Staph" and "E. coli" bacteria had a greater presence in the unexplained deaths of infants. SIDS cases peak between eight and ten weeks after birth, which is also when the antibodies passed from mother to child in the womb are disappearing and the babies have not begun making their own antibodies yet.Prenatal Sudden Infant Death Syndrome risks to the unborn baby are:
In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending that parents place their babies on their backs when they sleep. Ever since the American Academy of Pediatrics made their recommendation, the amount of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome cases has dropped by over 50%. When a baby is placed on their stomach, they breathe air from the top of the mattress surface. When a padded bumper is used in a crib, carbon dioxide collects on the top of the mattress surface. For infants with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or other types of airway malformations, it is recommended that sleeping on the stomach may be a better option. Consult with the child's doctor in these cases to determine the best sleeping position for the baby. To prevent flat spots (positional plagiocephaly) and bald patches on the baby's head, reposition the baby's head daily or weekly so they are not always lying on the same part of the head. Infants sleeping on their backs could choke on spit-up or vomit they regurgitate while they sleep. Sometimes, hospital staff place newborns on their side to prevent them from choking on spit-up or vomit they regurgitate while they sleep.
One theory to the occurrence of SIDS, is that babies sleep more soundly when placed on their stomachs and are unable to rouse themselves when they have an incidence of sleep apnea. Periodic pauses in breathing is a normal occurrence and is called apnea, the absence of breathing. It has been proven that increased levels of ambient oxygen reduces the occurrences of apnea in infants. This may be one of the reason why newborns were placed in oxygen tents after birth more than 50 years ago, but the side effects were poor eye development and sometimes the development of blindness. Small infants, with little or no control of their heads, inhale their exhaled breath (high in carbon dioxide) or smother themselves on their bedding while they sleep. The re-breathing of exhaled carbon dioxide has an anesthetic effect; slowing the heart rate, breathing and increases the incidence of sleep apnea. Some researchers have hypothesized that a baby sleeping on their stomach puts pressure on the baby's jaws, diaphragm and chest, which narrows their airway and hampers breathing. Another theory is that stomach sleeping increases an infant's risk of the "re-breathing" of their exhaled air, especially if the infant is sleeping on a soft mattress, with bedding, stuffed toys, or a pillow near the face, which traps the exhaled CO2 enriched air. As the baby breathes CO2 enriched exhaled air, the oxygen levels in the body drop and carbon dioxide accumulates in the blood. Eventually, this lack of oxygen could contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Infants who develop SIDS may have an abnormality in the arcuate nucleus, the part of the brain that controls breathing and the ability to waken during sleep. If a baby is re-breathing carbon dioxide saturated stale air while not getting enough oxygen, the brain will not trigger the baby to wake up and cry. The waking action changes the breathing and heart rate which makes up for the lack of oxygen. The problem with the arcuate nucleus, is it deprives the baby of this involuntary reaction which puts them at greater risk of developing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
A U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, connects secondhand smoke to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Infants who die from SIDS tend to have higher concentrations of nicotine and cotinine (a biological marker for secondhand smoke exposure) in their lungs than infants who die from other causes. Infants exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are also at a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Parents who smoke can reduce their children's risk of SIDS by quitting or by keeping their house smoke-free.
To prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, use a firm mattress in the crib or bassinet with snug-fitting tucked in sheets covering the baby's body and chest, with their arms exposed. Never place a baby to sleep on a pillow, quilt, sheepskin, waterbed or other soft surface. To prevent accidental suffocation or the re-breathing of carbon dioxide, do not leave pillows, blankets, comforters, quilts, sheepskins, pillow-like bumpers, stuffed animals, or fluffy bedding in the crib or bassinet. Keep all items away from the baby’s face.
The incidence of SIDS increases during colder weather when there is a reduction in ambient oxygen levels. Reduced oxygen levels in the baby's room may be a contributing factor in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In cold weather, dress infants in well-fitted clothing. Blankets should never be placed over baby's head. Make sure your baby does not get too warm while sleeping. Keep the room at a temperature that feels comfortable for an adult in a short-sleeve shirt. It is believed that excessive bedding and clothing produce hyperthermia, the overheating of a infant. In colder environments, use a snap "sleep sack" with holes for the baby's arms and head. A study published in the August 1998 European Journal of Pediatrics has shown that a sleep sack reduces the rate of turning from back to front during sleep. Prevent the bedding from covering the infant's face, which will increase the baby's body temperature and the occurrence of carbon dioxide re-breathing.
There is some evidence that breastfeeding may help decrease the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Researchers think antibodies in the mother's breast milk help to protect babies from infections. In 2003, a study was published in Pediatrics, showing breastfeeding infants in the study had 1/5 the rate of SIDS as non-breastfed infants.
Back in 1925, Dr. Otto Warburg, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, discovered that all cancer cells and all malignant cancer tumors always lack oxygen and use sugars (glucose) to grow anaerobically. A reduction in or a lack of oxygen in a cell damages DNA and creates abnormal cells. If a cell's oxygen levels are reduced around 33%, the cell may stop aerobic synthesis and become an anaerobic cancer cell. One way the body's cells are deprived of oxygen is glucose overloading from the digesting of carbohydrates. Most people after eating a large carbohydrate meal get sleepy because blood is redirected to the digestive system and the body's cells are deprived of oxygen through glucose overloading. Carbohydrates are broken down in the digestion process at different rates. Simple carbohydrates are broken down almost immediately into glucose and are absorbed very fast into your system. Complex carbohydrates take much longer to break down and are absorbed into your system over a longer period of time. White sugar, white flour and white rice are simple carbohydrates which should be avoided by mothers when breast feeding. Breast milk fed to a baby, containing elevated levels of glucose, may reduce a baby's oxygen levels, possibly resulting in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. There is evidence that breastfeeding may help to decrease the incidence of SIDS.
Bumper pads may contribute to SIDS deaths and should be removed because they reduce the flow of oxygen rich air to an infant through the crib and cause carbon dioxide to collect in the non-ventilated crib chamber. Re-breathing of carbon dioxide may play a significant role in the occurrence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Clean bedding often, because disease carrying microscopic bugs feeding on baby vomit and dust could be fatal, causing a baby's immune system to overreact and leading to anaphylactic shock.
A 1993 article in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine showed that high doses of vitamin C helps to eliminate SIDS. In 1989, UK Scientist Barry Richardson suggested that cot deaths were the result of toxic nerve gases produced by fungus reacting with the fire-retardant compounds phosphorus, arsenic and antimony, used to make mattresses. In 1994, the New Zealand government issued advice recommending new parents to buy bedding free of the toxic compounds phosphorus, arsenic and antimony or to wrap the mattresses in a barrier film to prevent the escape of the gases.
Around 2 to 4 months old, babies begin vaccinations, the same age range as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome cases. Some studies have concluded that vaccines are not a risk factor for SIDS, but there are many activists who believe that there is a link between infant vaccinations and SIDS.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is a National Institute of Health organization doing research on SIDS. The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Alliance is a group that provides grief counseling, support and referrals. The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Network, Inc. is a not-for-profit, voluntary health agency that supports SIDS research projects, provides support for families who have lost a baby to SIDS and raises awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome using public education. The American Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Institute (sids.org) is non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of sudden infant death and the promotion of infant health.