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Infant Safe Sleep/SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden death of an infant under one year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene and review of the baby's clinical history.

Until 2012, SIDS was the number one cause of death for babies ages 1 month - 1 year old in the United States. SIDS rates in North Carolina have decreased consistently over the past 10 years although, in the past three years, rates have declined dramatically. In 2010, there were an average of approximately 100 deaths per year. Starting in 2010 and 2011 this number declined to an average of 50 deaths per year. In 2012 there were 28 SIDS deaths and 23 in 2013.

While overall rates have declined, disparities persist. African American babies are still more likely to die from SIDS as Caucasian babies. Babies ages 0-6 months are at the highest risk. It is believed that better investigations of unexpected infant deaths and greater adoption of safe sleep practices have contributed to lower SIDS deaths.

Why Does SIDS Happen?

The cause of SIDS remains unknown. It is known that certain risk factors can contribute to making a baby more vulnerable to SIDS. Some of these risk factors include brain abnormalities (which may impact a baby's ability to control breathing), being born premature or low birth weight, having a respiratory infection, stomach or side sleeping, sleeping on a soft surface or co-sleeping with an adult or other child. View TIPS for a complete list.

SIDS Facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while the overall rate of SIDS in the United States has declined by more than 50% since 1990, rates for non-Hispanic black and American Indian/ Alaska Native infants remain disproportionately higher than the rest of the population.

  • SIDS is one of the leading cause of death for babies between one month and one year of age
  • SIDS is most common between two and four months of age
  • SIDS claims more boy babies than girl babies
  • SIDS occurs more often among African American babies than white babies

For more information, see the Infant Safe Sleep section of this website.

When a Baby Dies of SIDS

When a baby dies there is an investigation to find the cause of death An autopsy is performed by a medical examiner or coroner, law enforcement examines the place where the baby died and the baby's health history is reviewed. The local department of social services may assist in the investigation and the county's SIDS Counselor may contact the family.

SIDS Counselors have special training in grief counseling and can help families cope with their loss. The services are free and can:

  • Provide support
  • Answer questions
  • Collect information about the baby's health history and death
  • Follow-up with the medical examiner's office
  • Help families understand the autopsy report
  • Link the family with other community resources

In North Carolina SIDS Grief Counseling is available in each county through theOpens in new window local health departments.

Other Links


Opens in new window A parenting Web site from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP )which includes information related to child health and guidance on parenting issues.

Opens in new windowConsumer Product Safety Commission - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission provides information on consumer products including cribs and other infant and baby products.

Opens in new - the official U.S. Government website for finding recalled products.

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Last updated: October 2014


Text4baby link

More Info

Infant Safe Sleep Webisodes
Each webisode is a short video with detailed information to educate parents, caregivers and professionals about infant safe sleep.

My Carolina Today - Infant Safe Sleep Segments(NBC-17) Infant Safe Sleep Coordinator, Marta Pirzadeh explains exactly what SIDS is and how to reduce the risk for your baby.

Back to Sleep information sheet
How to reduce your baby's risk of SIDS
Opens in new window PDF version (344 KB)*
Opens in new window Plain text version

Baby's Safe Sleep flyer/fotonovela
Mom explains to grandma why babies should be on their backs when they sleep. Share with family members and caregivers.
Opens in new window PDF version (297 KB)*
Opens in new window Plain text version

Baby's Safe Sleep poster
Steps to follow to safely put a baby to bed
Opens in new window PDF version (72 KB)*
Opens in new window Plain text version

Keeping Baby Safe at Home
Safe sleep tips for babies from Neonatal Intensive Care Units
Opens in new window PDF version (161 KB)*
Opens in new window Plain text version

Oh Baby! We want to keep you safe from secondhand smoke
Tips for dealing with secondhand smoke
Opens in new window PDF version (247 KB)*
Opens in new window Plain text version

Taking Care of Me
This self-help guide gives postpartum women practical health tips on emotional health, stress, nutrition, exercise, family planning and reproductive health, and alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
Opens in new window PDF version (488 KB)*
Opens in new window Plain text version

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