Oregon and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) is a term used to describe the unexpected and sudden death of a baby that is less than one-year-old in which the cause of death was not obvious before an investigation. These deaths usually occur during sleep in seemingly healthy babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), around 3,500 babies die in the US suddenly and unexpectedly each year. There are several causes of these deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation in a sleeping environment, and deaths from unknown causes.

How common is sudden infant death syndrome?

When looking at statistics in Oregon, the CDC reports that there is a sudden infant death rate of 75.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is well below the national average of 100.5 deaths per 100,000 live births. The numbers in the US and in Oregon have decreased over time, but there is still room for improvement.

Causes of sudden infant death syndrome

According to the Mayo Clinic, a combination of physical and sleep environmental factors can put infants at more risk of sudden death. The following factors vary from child to child.

Physical factors

The most common physical factors associated with SIDS include:

  • Brain defects. Some infants are born with brain issues that make them more likely to die from SIDS. In these babies, the problem usually lies with the portion of the brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep.
  • Low birth weight. Premature births or babies who struggle to put on weight as they develop increases the likelihood that their brain has not matured completely and will have less control over their breathing and heart rate automatic processes.
  • Respiratory infections. Many infants who die from SIDS recently had a cold that could have contributed to breathing problems.

Sleep environmental factors

Items in a baby’s sleeping area or their sleeping position can combine with their physical problems and increase their risk of SIDS. Examples of this include:

  • Sleeping on their stomach or side. Babies in these sleeping positions may have more difficulty breathing than those who sleep on their backs.
  • Sleeping on a soft surface. If a baby face down on fluffy bedding materials, a soft mattress, or a water bed, their airway could become blocked.
  • Sharing a bed. The rate of SIDS increases if a baby sleeps in the same bed with their parents, siblings, or pets.
  • A baby is at an increased risk of SIDS if they are too warm while they sleep.

SIDS risk factors

There are several risk factors that could increase a child’s risk of SIDS.

  • Boys are more likely to die of SIDS.
  • Those most vulnerable are between the second and fourth months of life.
  • Non-white infants are more likely to die from SIDS.
  • Babies who have siblings or cousins who have died from SIDS have a higher likelihood of SIDS.
  • Secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS.
  • Premature babies are at an increased risk of SIDS.

Preventing SIDS

Parents are encouraged to place their baby on his or her back when they sleep during the first year of their life. Do not assume your friends or family will place your baby in the correct position. Insist that they do this every time they put your baby to sleep.

Some other preventative measures include:

  • Keep the crib as bare as possible.
  • Do not overheat your baby.
  • Have the baby sleep in your room (in their crib).