What is sudden infant death syndrome? - Little Lullaby
Little Lullaby

What is sudden infant death syndrome?

Information on what sudden infant death (SIDS) is and how it can be prevented by following our advice.

Little Lullaby
Little Lullaby

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby where no cause is found. Babies born to mothers below the age of 20 are three times more likely to die of SIDS[1].

Some sudden and unexpected deaths can be explained by the post-mortem examination, revealing, for example, an unforeseen infection or underlying health condition. Deaths that remain unexplained after the post-mortem are usually registered as ‘sudden infant death syndrome’ (SIDS) or sudden unexpected deth in childhood (SUDC) in a child over 12 months. Sometimes other terms such as SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy) or ‘unascertained’ may be used.

What causes sudden infant death (SIDS)?

We don’t know what causes SIDS. For many babies it is likely that a combination of factors affect them at a vulnerable stage of their development, which leads them to die suddenly and unexpectedly. However, many years of research mean that we now know how to lower the risk of it happening.

Is SIDS very common?

Although SIDS is rare – 216 babies died of SIDS in the UK in 2015 –­ it can still happen and there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk for your baby. It used to be very common with around 2,000 babies per year dying until scientists discovered how to reduce the risk and this knowledge became widespread. Since the “Back to Sleep” campaign in 1991 the SIDS rate has dropped by more than 80%.

What age babies are most at risk of SIDS?

Around 89% of SIDS deaths happen when a baby is six-months-old or less.

Can SIDS be prevented? What are the biggest risk factors?

While SIDS can’t be completely prevented, there are ways you can reduce the risks of it occurring significantly by following our safer sleep advice.

It’s especially important to follow our advice for babies who were born premature or of low birth weight, as these babies are at a higher risk of SIDS.

If you have any questions about safer sleep advice, please feel free to get in touch at info@littlelullaby.org.uk.

[1] ONS, 2016