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What causes SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)?

There is mounting evidence that suggests many Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) babies are born with brain abnormalities that make them vulnerable to sudden death during infancy. Studies of SIDS victims reveal abnormalities in the “arcuate nucleus,” a portion of the brain that controls most of the baby’s major bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, temperature and the ability to wake from sleep. This abnormality makes babies unable to cope with challenges in their environment that a healthy baby would be able to overcome. These challenges include tummy sleeping, bed sharing, use of soft bedding, overheating and tobacco exposure.

Babies born with defects in other portions of the brain or body may also be more prone to a sudden death. These abnormalities may stem from prenatal exposure to a toxic substance, or lack of a vital compound in the prenatal environment, such as sufficient oxygen.

It should be noted that even though SIDS is also called "crib death" -- because most babies sleep in cribs -- cribs do not cause SIDS.
The cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is an unexplained death of an infant 1 month to 1 year of age, is unknown. It is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning all other potential causes of death are excluded.

The rate of SIDS increases with preterm delivery (earlier then 37 weeks), infants sleeping on their stomach (which is why the recommendation is for infants to sleep on their back), young mothers, maternal smoking and bed sharing. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.