Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected, unexplained death of a child less who is younger than one year of age. SIDS is rare during the first month of life. It peaks at 2 to 4 months of age, then gradually decreases.
The exact cause is not known. It may be linked to problems with the parts of the brain that control functions like breathing, waking, and heart rhythm.
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This problem is more common in infants who are less than 6 months of age. It is also more common in boys and babies who are Black, Native American, and Native Alaskan.
Other things that may raise the risk are:
A previously healthy infant does not respond and is not breathing after being placed in bed to sleep.
All possible illnesses and causes of death must be ruled out before a diagnosis of SIDS is made. A complete investigation will take place. It will include:
Emergency treatment will be needed as soon as the infant is found. Infant CPR must be started. A baby who survives will need further medical care and evaluation to look for a cause.
Families of infants who do not survive will be referred to grief counseling and support groups.
The risk of this problem may be lowered by:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-sids. Accessed August 31, 2021.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Kid's Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
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Accessed August 31, 2021.
10/25/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-sids: SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Evidence Base for 2016 Updated Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment Rachel Y. Moon, Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Pediatrics Oct 2016, e20162940; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-2940 .
9/26/2017 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-sids: Psaila K, Foster JP, et al. Infant pacifiers for reduction in risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Apr 5;4:CD011147.
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Kari Kuenn, MD
Last Updated: 8/31/2021