After Pregnancy: Basics of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for Dads

By Mathew Miller, Sharon Perkins

Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is one possibility of the scary things new dads face. SIDS has decreased since pediatricians began recommending that babies sleep on their backs with the “Back to Sleep” campaign, but it’s still the third most common cause of death for infants up to 1 year old. More than 7,000 babies in the United States succumb to SIDS each year.

How to identify the causes and debunk myths for dads

The causes of SIDS still aren’t clear. However, doctors know that the following are not causes of SIDS:

  • Choking

  • Immunizations

  • Infections

  • Suffocation

  • Vomiting

SIDS is considered to be multifactorial, meaning it doesn’t have just one cause. Several factors must all be present for SIDS to occur, including abnormalities in the brain, respiratory system, and possibly the heart.

What increases the risks of SIDS

The following factors increase the likelihood of SIDS:

  • The baby was born prematurely.

  • The baby is male.

  • The baby is of black, Native American, or Native Alaskan ethnicity.

  • The baby is between two and three months of age.

  • The baby is overheated or overdressed. Too many clothes or an overly heated room may increase the risk of SIDS. SIDS occurs more often in cooler fall and winter weather, when babies get bundled up.

  • The baby has a sibling who died of SIDS.

  • The baby was/is exposed to tobacco. SIDS rates are higher in babies whose moms smoked during pregnancy or who smoke around the baby.

  • The mother used cocaine, heroin, or methadone during pregnancy.

  • The baby recently had a respiratory infection.

  • The baby sleeps on his stomach, especially if he’s switched from back to stomach sleeping or is overheated and sleeping on his stomach. (Side sleeping may seem like a compromise if your baby hates being on his back, but many side sleepers roll over onto their stomachs.)

Research also indicates that babies who are breast-fed and those who suck on pacifiers may have a lower risk of SIDS. Additionally, placing a fan in the window or even just opening a window has also been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS in at least one study, possibly because better ventilation may decrease carbon dioxide buildup.