SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, is also known as cot death . It is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant, usually during sleep. SIDS accounts for more deaths in babies in Australia under the age of twelve months than any other known cause. Babies who are placed to sleep on their stomachs and babies of parents who smoke may be more likely to die from SIDS, but doctors have not been able to pinpoint an exact cause for SIDS deaths.

What causes SIDS?

Doctors don’t know what causes SIDS. Death is sudden and most often in otherwise healthy infants.

Is SIDS serious?

SIDS is a potentially fatal condition with no warning signs.

Can I Prevent SIDS?

You can minimise the likelihood of SIDS by taking some preventative measures, but even when these are taken some babies still die due to SIDS. The preventative measures you should take to reduce the risks for your baby are:

  • Sleep your baby on her back from birth
  • Keep baby’s head uncovered when she sleeps
  • Ensure bedding is firm
  • Sleep baby in your room but not in your bed
  • Prevent your baby from overheating in bed
  • Don’t smoke around your baby

How do I know if my child has SIDS?

Babies are most likely to die from SIDS between the ages of two to four months and are more likely to be male than female. Making sure that you put your baby to sleep on his back, don’t smoke, and keep room temperature moderate may help prevent SIDS. There are no warning signs and it’s impossible to predict if SIDS will occur.

What you need to know about SIDS

  • SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, is also called cot death.
  • Babies who die from SIDS are most often otherwise healthy.
  • Boys are more likely to die from SIDS than girls.
  • Babies are most likely to die from SIDS between the ages of two to four months.
  • There is no way to predict or completely prevent SIDS.

Written by Rebecca Stigall for Kidspot, New Zealand's parenting resource for family health. Sources include Better Health Channel, NSW Health and Health Insite.

Last revised: Wednesday, 20 January 2010

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.