A baby is put down for sleep and later found dead. The death cannot be explained even after an autopsy. Sometimes called crib death and occur in apparently healthy infants.
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is the most common cause of death in infants from one month to one year of age. Three fourths occur before they are six months old. Some factors seem more dominate than others. SIDS happen more with boys, in the winter, and with second children. The weekends seem to have more deaths and also these deaths occur more between twelve at night and nine AM in the morning.
Research has been done to pin point risk factors. Some factors are:
Low birth weight
Young single mothers
Anemia in the mother
Poor socioeconomic background
The death of a sibling with SIDS
A near miss infant sibling found near death and resuscitated
Heart rate disturbance
SIDS has never had just a single cause. It seems some die of a sudden respiratory infection or undetected inborn error of the metabolism. There seems to be some abnormal breathing or heart rate and some believe this to be the cause of SIDS.
The rhythms of breathing may become abnormal due to fault in the brain stem, the lungs may have abnormal surfectant (a substance that prevents air sacs from collapsing) or abnormal airway reflexes.
Deaths occur usually without any warnings. Yet some babies suffer from miner symptoms such as a cold or stuffy nose. Most experience weight loss.
Prevention steps are as follows:
Good prenatal care
Avoidance of smoking
Avoiding drugs during pregnancy
Good obstetric care
Close observation of baby after any illness
Putting baby down on back to sleep
Alarms placed on at risk infants those who have had a sibling die of SIDS or had a near miss infant help by going off if the infant stops breathing. The alarm does not ensure that the infant will not die of SIDS.
The death of SIDS infants causes much depression and stress. Grief manifests in many ways. There may be intense feeling of guilt, misplaced blame, and severe persistent grief. The visits from the coroner and police make the stress more unbearable.
The loss of a child to SIDS may cause a parent to not trust their ability to be a parent. They cannot be reassured that they did not cause the death. Therapy should be administered.
Siblings are also affected by the death of an infant to SIDS.
They may exhibit:
Regression to habits long outgrown
Fear of death
All this is a way to express grief. The family pediatrician or family physician can provide support. A local social worker, the minister, and group therapy with parents or families who have lost infants to SIDS could provide needed comfort.