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SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)

What is SIDS?

SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby who is less than one year old. SIDS is also known as "crib death" because SIDS often happens when a baby has been sleeping and does not wake up. SIDS is diagnosed only after an investigation and after other causes of death are ruled out.

Why Does SIDS Happen?

The causes of SIDS remain a mystery. Researchers are looking into possible causes by studying baby's genes, their physical development, and their surroundings. We do know that:

  • SIDS is 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 happens more often in winter
  • SIDS occurs more often among African American babies than white babies
  • SIDS can happen to any family

How to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

Simple steps parents and caregivers can take to help reduce the risk of SIDS include the following:

  • Put babies to sleep on their backs instead of their tummies or sides
  • Keep toys and fluffy blankets out of the crib while baby sleeps
  • Make sure babies don't sleep on sofas or in beds with others. Cribs are safest
  • Keep babies from overheating by layering their clothes and not overdressing them
  • Make sure the rooms where babies sleep stay in a safe temperature range of 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Keep tobacco smoke away from babies

For more information, see the Baby's Safe Sleep section of this website, our webisodes on Infant Safe Sleep and the video segments from My Carolina Today.

When a Baby Dies of SIDS...

There is an investigation to find the cause of death. An autopsy is performed by a medical examiner or coroner. The police examine the place where the baby died. The baby's health history is reviewed. Sometimes the local department of social services will help in the investigation. The county's SIDS Counselor may contact the family.

The SIDS Counselor can help families cope with their loss. They have special training in SIDS and grief counseling. Their services are free and they 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 resources in the community

When a family or a caregiver loses a child to SIDS, the most important thing for them to know is that there are others who can help.

Other Links

North Carolina

In addition to the SIDS Counselors at county health departments, there are several other resources for families and caregivers.

North Carolina SIDS Program - 919-715-8430
Hours: Mon. - Fri., 8 A.M. - 5 P.M. (closed holidays)
This statewide program provides information about SIDS to families and supports the work of the SIDS Counselors. The N.C. SIDS program is a service of the Division of Public Health, Women's and Children's Health Section.

DHHS Customer Service Center

1-800-662-7030 (English/ Spanish)
1-877-452-2514 (TTY)


Opens in new windowFirst Candle/National SIDS Alliance - 1-800-221-7437
A national organization with state affiliates, it provides access to grief support and an educational network for anyone affected by SIDS. Information is available in English and Spanish.

Opens in new windowThe American Academy of Pediatrics - 1-847-434-4000
A partner in the national effort to reduce SIDS.

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Last updated: October 2011

View this page in Spanish

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.

When SIDS Happens
A brochure that answers questions and identifies resources for families and caregivers that have experienced the tragedy of SIDS.
Opens in new window PDF version (114 KB)*
Opens in new window Plain text version

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

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*If the PDF download time is too slow, try the plain text version. If your computer can't open the PDF version, download Opens in new windowa FREE Adobe Acrobat Reader.

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