Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under age 1 in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death. My sister had a child that died of SIDS.
He was only 6 months old. She had got up that early morning at around 3a.m. to feed him and put him down in the baby bed that was a swinging bed. When she checked on him at 7:00 a.m. he had died. The autopsy showed that nothing was wrong with him.
I also had a granddaughter that died of SIDS at 18 months old. Her doctor had said that children can die of SIDS up to the age of two. I have not found any research stating this is so.
SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants between the ages of one month and one year, claiming between 2,300 and 2,500 lives every year in the United States.
Losing a child—a traumatic experience for any parent—is especially difficult for those who lose a child to SIDS because the death is so sudden and its cause can often not be determined. Parents of a child who dies of SIDS do not gain a medical explanation of their infant’s death.
A story from News Tribune Online
Jerry can’t forget the morning of May 20 when everything fell apart. He’d fed his daughter at 2:30 a.m. and held her for an hour on the sofa as she fell asleep.
“I fell asleep and she was in my arms,” he said.
In the morning, Jessica wasn’t breathing.
Jerry called 911 as Lisa started CPR. Paramedics rushed Jessica to the hospital, but they couldn’t revive her.
For the Greenes, her death was unimaginable.
“When you suffer the loss of a child, you lose a part of yourself — your dreams, your hopes, everything is shattered,” said Lisa Greene.
Someday, the family may put the baby furniture away. Right now, it helps with their grieving.
Pictures of Jessica sit on the television and on shelves, along with those of her 9-year-old sister, Jenny, and 6-year-old brother, Josh. The family has connected with a SIDS support group and other help through the St. Mary’s grief center.
It helps, some. But it’s hard.
“I still check on the children at night to see if they’re breathing,” Jerry Greene said. “But the hardest thing is knowing that it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to just let go. It’s OK to have these feelings.”
In addition to the emotions that normally accompany grief, such as denial, anger, and guilt, SIDS parents may experience certain other reactions unique to their situation. They may become fearful that another unexpected disaster will strike them or members of their families.
After the death of a child from SIDS, parents often become over-protective of the infant’s older siblings and of any children born subsequently. Some fear having another child, due to misgivings that the tragedy they have experienced may repeat itself.
SIDS is neither predictable nor preventable.
SIDS is not caused by immunizations or bad parenting
SIDS is not contagious or hereditary.
SIDS is not anyone’s fault.
SIDS is most likely to occur between 2 and 4 months of age, and 90% occur by 6 months of age. It occurs more often in winter months, with the peak in January. There is also a greater rate of SIDS among Native and African Americans.
- Babies who sleep on their stomachs
- Babies who are around cigarette smoke while in the womb or after being born
- Babies who sleep in the same bed as their parents
- Babies who have soft bedding in the crib
- Multiple birth babies (being a twin, triplet, etc.)
- Premature babies
- Babies who have a brother or sister who had SIDS
- Mothers who smoke or use illegal drugs
- Teen mothers
- Short time period between pregnancies
- Late or no prenatal care
- Situations of poverty
Before World War Two, the number of SIDS (also called ‘Crib Death’) incidences was not very high. There was a dramatic increase in the number after the War, and it took quite a while for researchers to identify the cause.
Post-war, the industrially developed nations promulgated laws saying that crib mattresses had to be made fire retardant. Manufacturers achieved this by adding fire retarding chemicals to the mattress, which was a perfectly logical thing to do.
However, strange and deadly consequences resulted from this. Common household bacteria and fungi such as scopulariopsis brevicaulis ate the fire-retardants (which were often antimony, phosphorus or arsenic) and emanated gaseous derivatives of the toxic phosphine (PH3), arsine (AsH3) and stibine (SbH3) gases.
These gases are more lethal than some of the well-known nerve gases used by irresponsible countries in military warfare. Carbon monoxide is but a feeble joke compared to them.
Body heat is what triggered the fungi to act. When urine, saliva and vomit leached into the mattress, the process went into high gear and even more gases were generated.
These gases rose out of the mattress and formed a layer. If there was insufficient air circulation in the room, or if the crib had solid, raised sides, this layer resided on the surface of the mattress where the baby lay. The baby was thus enveloped in a cloud of poison.
This phenomenon, which frequently occurs in the present day, also explains why SIDS reduces if babies sleep on their backs (as advocated by the American Academy of Pediatrics 13 years ago), because in that case they do not have their noses in the deadly gaseous soup.
The remedy for this toxic gas problem is to create an impermeable barrier between the baby and the mattress, most simply achieved by wrapping the mattress with polyethylene sheet. The top and sides should be covered by folding down a single sheet, then folding it again under the mattress and fixing it there with sticking tape.
The bottom should not be airtight.
Alternatively, ready made polyethylene slip-on mattress covers are inexpensively available from standard supply sources.
Statistics have shown that such mattress-wrapping dramatically reduced the incidence of SIDS.
It would also help to keep the head of the crib at a higher level than the foot, so that the gases are drained away from the baby’s head area.
By having your baby sleep on her back, you decrease her chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Although your concerns about rolling over and spitting up are legitimate, there’s good news — by the time your baby can roll over by herself, her chances of SIDS are greatly reduced.
Plus, by putting your baby to sleep on her back, she’ll get used to this position and probably prefer it.
Losing a child is a unique crisis for any family, especially when the child has died suddenly, unexpectedly, and for no apparent reason.
- Do not blame yourselves! Losing a child to SIDS is not your fault.
- There are typically no warning signs or symptoms that you could have recognized or prevented.
- Grieving is a normal process when dealing with the loss of a loved one. Family, friends, neighbors, workplace, or faith communities may all serve as sources of support. It is important to remember that you are not alone.
Maybe you are one of the many people trying for another baby soon after a SIDS death. It’s natural, you want to fill your empty arms. Yet you may feel frightened that SIDS
will happen again. You will need to figure out how long to wait and what seems right for you. For many parents, the thought of having another baby brings comfort. Others
comment they feel they are betraying their baby who has died. The “right” time to embark on this will vary depending on your individual circumstances. Trust yourself about
If you are expecting a baby, you will probably be a little nervous and excited as well as afraid. It is hard to be patient. It’s also unfair to have to wait and go through this all
again. The pregnancy can seem to last forever, and it may be hard to believe it won’t happen again. Building a good support system can really help. Talk with your doctor or
another health professional; you can also contact the SIDS Alliance.
The most uncomfortable period will be the point when your subsequent child nears the age of the child who died. It is one of those milestones that has to be reached and
passed. Once it is, most parents report their moments of uneasiness start to decrease. Most of all, be assured you are not the only person to experience discomfort or panic.
Nearly everyone does.
Lets go over some things for the Prevention of SIDS one more time……
The following are the safe bedding recommendations agreed upon by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development:
- Place baby on his/her back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
- Remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys, and other soft products from the crib, playpen, or portable crib.
- Consider using a sleeper or other sleep clothing as an alternative to blankets, with no other covering.
- If using a blanket, put baby with feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, reaching only as far as the baby’s chest.
- Make sure your baby’s head remains uncovered during sleep.
- Do not place baby on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow, or other soft surface to sleep.
The birth of your newborn represents hope and a promise of continuity of life. Joy and sorrow are memories in your life that enable you to know the importance of hope.
For further information, you may contact these groups:
Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs (a national network of SIDS support groups)
First Candle (SIDS Alliance)
1314 Bedford Avenue, Suite 210
Baltimore, MD 21208
National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, NICHD/Back to Sleep Campaign
31 Center Drive, Room 2A32
Bethesda, MD 20892-2425
Phone: 800-370-2943 Fax: 301-496-7101
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