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