SIU School of Medicine

Jump directly to a section:

Office of Public Affairs




SIDS, a primary cause of death in infants before the age of one year, is not well understood by medical experts.  But parents can take steps to prevent it.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS is an unexplained cause of death occurring in infants when they are sleeping.  Dr. Tracy Milbrandt, assistant professor of pediatrics at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, says the exact cause of SIDS has not been determined, but she suggests it may be a combination of factors.

SOUND BITE:    “No one exactly knows for sure the exact mechanism, but we do know that it is often times triggered by some sort of lack of oxygen.  So whether that be re-breathing stale air – the greatest concerns we have are suffocation as well.  So for some reason that low oxygen level in the brain in these babies triggers them to stop breathing.”

SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants between the age of one month to one year and it claims the lives of about 2,500 infants each year in the U.S.  Dr. Milbrandt explains some risk factors for SIDS that can help parents be more aware.

SOUND BITE:    “Babies that are boys tend to have a higher risk of sudden death syndrome.  If they were born prematurely or with a low birth weight, or smaller than expected size.   If the mother had been smoking during or in the few months after pregnancy, that is a high risk.  We do know that mothers who are less than 18 years of age, their babies are at higher risk for SIDS.”

Dr. Milbrandt says babies should be placed on their backs when put to sleep.   If parents are looking for more information about SIDS, she recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control Web sites.  Or talk to your child’s physician.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.