Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Its Causes

Topic: Pediatrics
Words: 1412 Pages: 5


Over the years, children’s deaths have led to a deeper inquiry into some of the most common causes of infant mortality. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is described as the unexpected life termination in children below one year that remains unexplained after a thorough examination (Kochar Kaur et al., 2019). The diagnosis, which follows a full case study that includes a comprehensive autopsy, assessment of a death environment, and evaluation of the medical history, does not result in a describable cause. The phrase “sudden unexpected infant death” (SUID) is frequently used to encompass all unforeseen newborn deaths, in part because there may be discrepancies in the screening and diagnosis of SIDS (Kochar Kaur et al., 2019). This allows the division of the SUID classification into explained and unexplained SUID. The latter typically refers to instances that the physician has determined to be SIDS and other occurrences that cannot be characterized as SIDS but lack a definitive explanation because of hazy circumstances.

This issue raises concerns about childcare practices owing to their significant contribution to infant mortality. According to Kochar Kaur et al. (2019), SIDS accounts for 35 to 55% of all deaths in children aged two weeks to one year. The unpredictable and gross outcomes have led to an awareness of the parent’s roles, including baby positioning, breastfeeding, and clothing to mitigate the deaths. Safe and healthy baby care practices such as room ventilation have gained importance in mitigating childhood deaths linked to this syndrome. Empirical research reveals SIDS etiology, several risk factors, prevention strategies, and parental responsibilities.

Research Findings


The most recent research indicates that genetic, ecological, and social factors all have a role in the etiology of SIDS. According to the Triple-Risk Model, SIDS crops up in babies with innate biological frailty, such as a brainstem defect or genetic structure, and are subject to a trigger circumstance or external risk factor (Perrone et al., 2021). These triggers include susceptible sleeping or respiratory system blockages which are fatal when experienced at a crucial developmental stage. A life-threatening incident occurs while a person is sleeping due to a confluence of internal and extrinsic elements in a phase of pulmonary, autonomic, and cardiovascular development that typically takes place from two to four months of life. Failure of defensive mechanisms in these instances results in sudden mortality.

The majority of these potentially fatal incidents take place during sleep. In reality, heart rate, systolic and diastolic pressure, respiration rate, and muscle strength all decrease during sleep, specifically within the upper passageways (Perrone et al., 2021). Protective responses to hypoxic occurrences and hypercapnia are suppressed in sleep episodes. In the vulnerable posture, blood pressure, brain aeration, and cerebrovascular disease homeostasis all decline. Perrone et al. (2021) further show that term/mature infants exhibit a diminished baroreflex reaction and reduced alertness when lying on their backs. Male gender, demographic subgroups including non-Hispanic Black newborns, American Indian or Alaskan infants, and prematurity are intrinsic risk factors. The probability of SIDS episodes is 75% higher in premature or low birth weight infants, indicating that the changed intrauterine setting may play a role in etiology (Kochar Kaur et al., 2019). The higher risk of SIDS when sleeping, particularly in the risky position during particular baby maturation windows, is encompassed in a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors described below.

Serotonin Brain Cells’ Role in SIDS

SIDS-related neural research has focused on identifying the presence and potential position of a pathological injury inside the brain. Standard autopsies have not revealed any significant anatomical indicators of brain disease. Unexpected death has been linked to brainstem dysfunction. The brainstem constitutes the basic anatomical location of homeostatic management and waking/sleeping control in the central nervous system. According to the brainstem theory in SIDS, developmental defects in particular cerebral regions cause a breakdown of defenses against exogenous stresses, including asphyxia, hypoxic, hypercapnia, or metabolic disequilibrium when a person sleeps (Perrone et al., 2021). Defense mechanisms such as peripheral and centralized chemo-sensitivity to oxygenation (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) trigger an autoresuscitation system with wakefulness and head elevation to prevent suffocation (Kochar Kaur et al., 2019). Some of the anomalies linked to this syndrome are impaired alertness, an inefficient breathing rhythm, bouts of intransigent apnea during sleeping, and autonomic dysfunction.

Environmental Pollution, Caffeine, and Nicotine

It is commonly recognized that air pollution may increase the risk of various ailments. According to a report following a study on air pollution exposure, toxins found in the air due to atmospheric adulteration may also contribute to SIDS (Perrone et al., 2021). The re-inhaling of expelled carbon dioxide (C02) captured close to a child’s airway was proposed as a potential cause for the elevated risk of SIDS (Kochar Kaur et al., 2019). According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) recommendations, CO2 concentrations in indoor air above 1000 ppm are a certain sign of poor air quality caused by insufficient ventilation (Kochar Kaur et al., 2019). Since CO2 is known to be an extrinsic factor, it is advised that daycare facilities have an appropriate air quality level.

Given its connection to SIDS, the combined effect of caffeine and nicotine has recently drawn much attention. It is widely established that caffeine and nicotine in newborns might alter responsiveness (Perrone et al., 2021). In a case-control study, high caffeine consumption was significantly linked to an elevated risk (Kochar Kaur et al., 2019). Nicotine and caffeine may not be harmful enough to cause an inherent susceptibility to SIDS, but their combined effects increase the probability of SIDS death in neonates.

Parental Roles in SIDS

Since SIDS affects infants, parental responsibilities before and after the syndrome play a significant role in understanding its impact, etiology, and mitigation structures. In an empirical study involving 31 parents from 18 US families, significant emotions changed from protection and provision before SIDS to guilt during bereavement (Plews-Ogan et al., 2021). Caregivers’ presence and care are among the key roles influencing infants’ well-being during the vulnerable years of life. After SIDS, most parents developed a greater awareness of children’s needs, leading to attentiveness in sleeping positions, mother’s diet, and room ventilation (Plews-Ogan et al., 2021). In essence, parents are the primary agents for SIDS prevention.


While the causes of SIDS remain largely unknown, the identification of risk factors aids in formulating mitigation strategies to lower the incidence levels. Susceptible sleeping positions have been cited as the major risk factor, implying that a parent/caregiver’s presence is crucial to ensure that the child’s way of sleeping does not predispose them to SIDS. Stability during sleeping is essential, and parents should place the babies to bed on their backs as opposed to limiting the chances of a child rolling over. Pillows and clothing should be removed from the bed to prevent a child overwrapping themselves with them. Expectant and lactating mothers should also reduce caffeine and nicotine intake to shield their babies from ingesting the harmful elements contained in such substances that increase the risk of SIDS. Regarding intrinsic factors, medical examinations should often be done to identify and treat health conditions linked to this syndrome.

These findings are essential to childhood professionals as they equip them with the knowledge and insight necessary for effectiveness in their practice. Since SIDS is a major contributor to infant mortality, understanding its causes and prevention techniques is vital to these professionals. In addition, childhood care officials and advisors are responsible for educating parents and entire families about safe child support practices, requiring them to have a wide understanding of the factors addressed herein. Professionals in this area should address this problem by offering moral support to parents and giving first-line medical care and diagnosis, which includes an autopsy when such situations occur in childcare settings. These efforts should be guided by their knowledge and expertise in this field and adherence to moral and ethical conduct in the healthcare sector.

Christians have devoted themselves to preventing infant deaths since the bible teaches about life’s value which should be protected at all times. In support of this mission, they help mothers to provide a conducive environment for their infants through gifts such as clothing, milk, and sometimes housing. In addition, Christians are advised against smoking, which is a major cause of the high caffeine content in breast milk. These efforts can be improved further by calling for occasional inter-denominational meetings to advise the entire community on SIDS risk factors since everyone has a role to play in mitigating its impact on society.


Kochar Kaur, K., Allahbadia, G., & Singh, M. (2019). An update on sudden unexpected infant deaths – A systematic review on etiology, reporting, pathology and medico legal aspects. Acta Scientific Paediatrics, 2(11), 14-24.

Perrone, S., Lembo, C., Moretti, S., Prezioso, G., Buonocore, G., & Toscani, G. et al. (2021). Sudden infant death syndrome: Beyond risk factors. Life, 11(3), 184.

Plews-Ogan, E., Keywan, C., Morris, S., & Goldstein, R. (2021). The parental role before and after SIDS. Death Studies, 46(10), 2316-2326.

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