Questions Families Ask About Sudden Infant Death

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Questions Families Ask About Sudden Infant Death
Here are some of the questions most commonly asked on the subject of Sudden Infant Death.

What is Sudden Infant Death?

Sudden Infant Death is a term frequently heard in the news and is often quoted as a cause of death when babies die unexpectedly.
'Sudden Infant Death’ is the term used to describe the sudden and unexpected death of a baby or toddler that is initially unexplained. The usual medical term is ‘sudden unexpected death in infancy’ (SUDI). Some sudden and unexpected infant deaths can be explained by the post-mortem examination revealing, for example, an unforeseen infection or metabolic disorder. Deaths that remain unexplained after the post mortem are usually registered as ‘sudden infant death syndrome’ (SIDS). Sometimes other terms such as SUDI or ‘unascertained’ may be used.
‘Cot death’ was a term commonly used in the past to describe the sudden and unexpected death of an infant. It has largely been abandoned, due to its misleading suggestions that sudden infant death can only occur when a baby is asleep in their own cot, which we know to be untrue.

What causes sudden infant death?

A thorough post-mortem examination will reveal a specific cause of death in less than half of all sudden infant deaths. Causes may include accidents, infection, congenital abnormality or metabolic disorder. For the deaths that remain unexplained (SIDS), researchers think there are likely to be undiscovered causes. For many it is likely that a combination of factors affect a baby at a vulnerable stage of development.

Do babies only die at night in their cots?

No, sudden infant death can occur anywhere and at any time. Sudden infant deaths do however usually occur during a period of sleep in their cot but babies can die during any other period of sleep in their parent's arms or in a pram.

Do babies suffocate?

When babies are found dead in their parents' bed or with their faces covered it is sometimes thought they have died from suffocation. It is not known how often suffocation is in fact a total explanation for the baby 's death.

Do babies suffer any pain?

No, most die peacefully in their sleep without pain or distress.

Does it only happen to certain babies?

No, sudden infant death can affect any baby, but certain babies are more at risk, namely premature and low birth-weight babies and boys, babies born to mothers under the age of 20 are also more at risk.

What is the usual age for sudden infant death?

Sudden infant death is uncommon in babies less than a month old, but rises to a peak during the second month. The risk then diminishes as the baby grows older. Nearly 90% of sudden infant deaths have occurred by six months, and very few occur after a year.

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