SIDS: What Really IS Crib Death?

May 17, 2024

In this article, we will discuss SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or sudden infant crib death syndrome. It is a big problem that affects about one in two thousand babies, and there are some tricks to try to avoid its occurrence.

Today we look at them in detail. Be sure to pay close attention, because this is a topic that could save your newborn’s life.

What is SIDS?

SIDS is sudden infant death during the sleep phase.

The affected age group for this phenomenon is between one month and one year of age. Even today, unfortunately, the causes remain unknown. There are, however, more common cases in which SIDS occurs, and from these we can draw small, but crucial, cautions to prevent it from happening.

What is the cause of SIDS?

As we have already mentioned, the causes are still unknown. However, there are various factors that come into play among them, and it is still important to do due prevention to lower the chances of it occurring. Following death, an autopsy is always done on the infant to trace the cause of death.

None of us would want to be in that situation-this is one of the enemies to know first. There is a tendency to blame reflux, vomiting, suffocation–but all these causes have not been truthfully and uniquely matched at autopsy. Children have been found with both obstructed and unobstructed airways.

At present the common factors in these deaths would appear to be:

  • a brain defect in the mechanism that sends the wake-up signal in a dangerous situation, such as lack of oxygen;
  • prematurity;
  • adult habit of smoking;
  • alcohol intake during pregnancy;
  • sleeping on the stomach or on the side;
  • excessive heat;

What are the current data on SIDS?

The Italian incidence rate of the syndrome has dropped dramatically thanks to information and prevention. From data taken directly from the Italian SIDS website, we can say that in industrialized countries the incidence is 1 case per 2000 live births. In Italy that means – unfortunately – about 300 babies a year. It is most frequent between 2-4 months of age and about 60% are boys.

You will always have to be very careful during the first year of the baby’s sleep to minimize the possibility of it happening and pay attention to particular moments such as the fourth month sleep regression.


How to avoid these deaths?

Although there is no certainty about the cause, some rules have been drafted that seem to prevent it. Take good note of them and remember them well whenever you need them:

  • MAKE HIM SLEEP ON YOUR BACK: on a firm mattress, without a pillow and in the same room with you. NEVER in bed together! (although unfortunately there are many figures who recommend this…)
  • KEEP IT AWAY FROM SMOKE: both during pregnancy and after birth;
  • COOL TEMPERATURE: Don’t cover him too much, 18-20°C is the ideal temperature;
  • TRY cuddling HIM without forcing it;
  • BREASTFEED if you can;
  • MAKE HIM SLEEP AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BED WITH HIS FEET PLACED ON THE BOTTOM that way he will not be able to slip under the covers
  • DON’T LEAVE ANYTHING OVERHEAD IN THE BED no pillows, puppets, bumper pads, reducers or other objects. Not even blankets or sheets; better to opt for a safe sleeping bag.

The infant’s body is constantly changing and constantly trying to adapt to extrauterine life, in fact during this period the first major changes concern:

  • sleep rhythm
  • respiratory and cardiac rhythm
  • pressure and temperature.

Let us not underestimate anything that is changing in our newborn’s body during this critical period.


There is a tendency to believe that a baby positioned on his or her stomach is more at risk of choking as a result of regurgitation, but this is not the case. The supine position is not dangerous for regurgitation, although it appears to be, and those unfamiliar with human anatomy may fall for this mistaken belief (which has been passed down for decades).

Regurgitation, before leaving the mouth, must exit the esophagus via the trachea by force of gravity, and this happens much more frequently if the baby is placed on its stomach DOWN. So to summarize: the belly-down baby incurs, due to

What is SUDC?

SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood) is sudden infant death after the age of 12 months. Again, there is no certain explanation of why this occurs. It is similar to SIDS in that they are both sudden, but different in their causes.

Again, it is important to do all the investigations following death (although of course we hope none of us have to be in this situation) Unlike SIDS, SUDC has a much lower incidence; cases are very rare.

Don’t trust it: once is enough.

Many crib deaths are caused by a single distraction or on the discomfort you feel waking your baby who is finally asleep, perhaps on his side or on his stomach, and we really don’t want to wake him up to let him enjoy a restful sleep.

Even if it is stronger than you are, always try to stick to the guidelines so as not to take unnecessary risks: while it is true that it is not something in our control, procedures to minimize danger are. Always put the baby on his or her stomach, on a flat, hard surface that is not too snug, in an environment that is not too hot, where there are no smokers, do not put objects in the crib, and use a sleeping bag instead of blankets.

Only when the baby knows how to roll both on his stomach up and down can you be slightly less rigid in rolling him on his stomach, because he will know how to do it on his own.

We are with you.

We at Parentalife are incredibly sensitive to SIDS and do everything we can to make sure that those who know us avoid it in every way possible. We support you throughout the parenting journey with our guides, classes, and consultations aimed at helping you solve a specific problem.

On this journey you will never be alone; we are with you.


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Parents and Caregivers. Retrieved from
2. National Health Service. (n.d.). Reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Retrieved from

About the Author

Severino Cirillo

Health, Wellness and Education Expert. With a degree in Community Health, he is the CEO of Informed Parent and is responsible for validating the blog's scientific information and coordinating the editorial team of experts, consisting of gynecologists, midwives, psychotherapists, and others in pregnancy, perinatal, and parenting wellness and health.