On June 29, 2006, former Los Angeles Lakers player Lamar Odom’s son passed away. At just six months old, baby Jayden’s cause of death was one that must plague the minds of all parents, new and experienced—sudden infant death syndrome.
Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, involves the abrupt death of an otherwise healthy infant. Because SIDS often occurs during sleep in a crib, it is also known as crib death. Though it is a rare disease, SIDS is one of the most common explanations for deaths under one year of age and most frequently affects babies between two and four months old.
Although there are no definitive causes of sudden infant death syndrome, several conspiring factors have been identified, including premature delivery, teen mothers, mothers who smoke, and multiple pregnancies. Brain abnormalities also play a role, as infants whose brains don’t properly regulate breathing and arousal from sleep are at higher risk of SIDS. Finally, many SIDS cases involve infants who recently suffered from a cold or other respiratory illness. For reasons not yet known, SIDS is more prevalent in males as well as babies of black, Native American, and Eskimo descent. An immediate family history of sudden infant death syndrome also puts a baby at increased risk.
Due to the unexpected onset of SIDS, there are no visible symptoms. In fact, infants who die of SIDS do not display any signs of struggle and are frequently found positioned the same way they fell asleep. As a result, experts suggest taking a number of measures to hopefully prevent a loss of life. Most importantly, always place babies on their backs to sleep; side sleeping and stomach sleeping can cause the baby to have difficulty breathing. Similarly, sleeping on a soft surface or being covered with a blanket can have potentially fatal consequences for an infant due to breathing obstructions. Furthermore, do not allow a baby to sleep in the same bed as his or her parents—this arrangement presents more chances for breathing to become impaired. Finally, be sure to keep pillows, stuffed animals, and toys out of the baby’s crib during naps or bedtime.
Sudden infant death syndrome strikes without warning, so taking proper care of an infant’s sleeping space is of the utmost importance.