12 Myths About Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly referred to as SIDS, is the leading cause of death in infants over the age of 1 month. There is a lot mystery surrounding this insidious condition as scientists scramble to find out what causes it and how society can prevent it. There are many things nobody knows about SIDS, but there are a few things that scientists have been able to discern about it. SIDS is scary, and protecting your children is the most important thing you can do. Knowing the truth about what we know about SIDS can make all the difference. Read on to discover the truth behind the myths and learn the best steps on how to avoid SIDS.

12 Active Myths | Suggest a Myth
MYTH: SIDS is known as “crib death” so it must be caused by the crib.

Cribs are not the cause of SIDS. The term "crib death" comes from the fact that SIDS strikes when babies are sleeping and are usually found in their cribs the next day. Cribs can be a dangerous place for babies, however, if the mattress is too soft or there is bedding or stuffed animals in the crib. Babies should only sleep in a crib with a fitted sheet, never bumpers or blankets.

MYTH: SIDS can be prevented.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent SIDS. Scientists are trying to find the cause of SIDS as quickly as possible, but they aren't there yet. Still, scientists are discovering more and more about this insidious syndrome every day, and they are hopeful that they will find a cause - and a way to fix or prevent the cause - any day now.

MYTH: Parents should sleep in the same bed as their children so they can detect problems.

Sleeping in the same bed as your baby is incredibly dangerous and is one of the leading risk factors for SIDS. You should not sleep in the same bed as your baby, not even for naps. Breastfeeding mothers can comfort and feed their children, but should return their babies to the crib or bassinet as soon as the baby is soothed.

MYTH: Babies need to be bundled up warmly to sleep.

Many people believe that babies cannot regulate body temperature so they must be bundled up heavily in order to sleep comfortably. This couldn't be further from the truth. Babies shouldn't be dressed in more layers than an adult would require. Since babies should never be placed under a blanket while sleeping, sleep sacks allow babies to be dressed thinly but also be kept warm. These sacks have sleeves for baby's arms so the blanket portion of the sack can never be pulled over the baby's face.

MYTH: Babies get better rest on their stomach.

While it is true that babies sleep deeper and longer on their stomachs, stomach sleeping is a huge risk factor for SIDS. Scientists believe that this is because if the baby is sleeping too deeply, some babies may not be able to trigger a waking reflex if their breathing is impeded. Babies who are used to sleeping on their backs more than double their risk of SIDS if placed on their stomach.

MYTH: Babies will choke if placed on their backs.

There is a common misconception that babies placed on their backs will choke on their spit up. Actually, babies will always turn their heads to the side to spit up if on their backs to allow it to drain out. This is a biological reflex that all babies are born with.

MYTH: Vaccines cause SIDS

This is one of the most harmful myths. Vaccines do not cause SIDS. In fact, vaccines lower the risk of SIDS significantly. SIDS has been linked to respiratory infections, and vaccination not only prevents a number of those infections but also makes you healthier as a whole. So far, the science has suggested that babies who die of SIDS may have had an underdeveloped part of their brain that triggers their reflex to waken when breathing is impaired. Babies who are unvaccinated get sick more often, which makes it more difficult to breathe, and if the baby lacks that reflex, they are at extremely higher risk of SIDS.

MYTH: Babies can catch SIDS.

Actually, SIDS is not a bacteria or virus, so there is nothing to catch. It is not a disease. It is a syndrome and something that happens to a baby, not something that a baby can acquire.

MYTH: SIDS can strike after a baby's first birthday.

By definition, children are no longer infants after the first birthday. Therefore, they cannot die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. There are occasions where toddlers have died mysteriously, but these are extremely rare and do not share all the factors involved with SIDS.

MYTH: More babies die of SIDS while breastfeeding than sleeping.

Breastfeeding actually reduces the risk of SIDS significantly. SIDS can strike at any point while a baby is sleeping, including when they are their mother's breast. However, most cases involving SIDS while the baby is breastfeeding are actually cases of accidental suffocation. No less tragic, but breastfeeding deaths are not attributable to SIDS.

MYTH: Baby monitors prevent SIDS.

Baby monitors help give parents the peace of mind they need to get a good night's sleep. Wearable monitors such as the Owlet also let parents monitor their baby's heart rate and oxygen level through a smartphone app. Unfortunately, while these devices do have some use, in nearly all cases SIDS occurred with no audible signal. Audio baby monitors would not detect SIDS and the wearable monitors have not been proven to be completely reliable.

MYTH: Only unhealthy babies die of SIDS.

This misconception is often born of emotion. No parent wants to believe their healthy and developing baby could die for no discernible reason. Unfortunately, that is often the case. While premature, underweight, or babies who are being treated for failure to thrive are at the highest risk for SIDS, perfectly healthy babies have also been known to fall victim to it. The best thing a parent can do is follow every single recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics until the baby is one year of age. Remember: less than 0.006% of babies born in America in any given year succumb to SIDS. The odds are in your favor that your baby will be just fine.