What is SIDS?

Posted By: Amber
Posted In:
Published on: October 1, 2018

baby box

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as a parent you may have heard this.

But, what is it?

The official definition of SIDS is “the sudden death of an infant less than 1 year of age that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation is conducted, including a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and a review of the clinical history”.

That’s quite a mouthful. Let’s face it.

No one likes to talk about or think about infant death – especially new parents.

I certainly didn’t choose infant injury prevention as a career because I love talking about babies dying. I chose it because I could make a real difference in the lives of parents and their children.

And I try to be a voice for those children who did not survive. They deserve that honor.

The short version: SIDS is an infant death that is truly unexplainable.

Another public health expert once explained to a group of doctors that SIDS is like a big black box.

We can’t see into it and we don’t know what is in there.

How is SIDS Diagnosed?

Through research and investigation, we slowly shrink the box as we find explanations for deaths that would have previously been called SIDS.

When an infant dies, a multi-disciplinary team conducts a thorough investigation. We do a lot of tests to look at any undiagnosed health issues the baby may have had.

We examine the baby’s home and sleep environment for risk factors – like crib bumpers or loose blankets.

We conduct a thorough review and come together to decide on the cause of death. If we can’t find any explanation, then that death may be diagnosed as SIDS.

What Causes SIDS?

While we still don’t know what causes SIDS, we can begin to understand what IS NOT Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.


  • SIDS isn’t suffocation.
  • SIDS is not caused by vaccines.
  • SIDS is not contagious.
  • SIDS is not the result of neglect or child abuse.
  • SIDS is not caused by cribs (even though it was called ‘Crib Death’ for many years).
  • SIDS is not caused by vomiting or choking.
  • SIDS is not completely preventable, but there are ways to reduce the risk.


Can You Prevent SIDS?

While SIDS is not completely preventable, we do know that there are steps parents can take to lower their baby’s risk. Let’s start with the basics – these are the most important steps you can take.

The ABC’s of Safe Sleep

Seems pretty straightforward, right? But, we did some focus group testing to find out why parents were not practicing the ABC’s of safe sleep consistently. Not surprisingly, the top reasons are fatigue and convenience.  Tired parents are more likely to do whatever helps baby sleep, even if it’s a little riskier.

Pack-n-plays and cribs are great but hard to move around. Parents told us they were more likely to choose unsafe sleep spaces like car seats, bouncy seats, and couches because they were more accessible and convenient than a crib or pack-n-play. It can be helpful to choose a secondary, portable sleep space to encourage safe sleep habits for every sleep time.

But, What about Bed-Sharing?

“If room-sharing is good, what about bed-sharing?” you might ask. If you do choose to bed-share, it can help to know some of the things that make bed-sharing dangerous so you can avoid them.

Bed-sharing is riskiest when baby:

  • Is younger than 3 months old
  • Lives with someone who smokes
  • Shares a bed with someone who is very tired
  • Shares a bed with someone who is using medications or substances, such as alcohol or illicit drugs
  • Shares a bed with someone who is not a parent, including other children
  • Shares a bed with more than one other person
  • Sleeps on a waterbed, older mattress, sofa, couch, or armchair
  • Sleeps on a bed with soft bedding, including pillows, heavy blankets, quilts, and comforters

By avoiding these situations, it’s possible to reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation while bed-sharing. ‘Choose’ is the key word when it comes to parenting style – bed-sharing including.

Unplanned bed-sharing usually includes several of the risk factors named above. Planned bed-sharing is much safer for baby.

As parents, we have so many hard decisions to make. We feel constant guilt. There are some things you can never protect your child from, and that really stinks. But there are other ways you CAN protect your child.

What about Baby Boxes?

Baby boxes, like the Smitten,  are based on a Finnish tradition that puts research at the forefront.

Made in the USA, Smitten baby boxes are designed by leading public health, safety, and product-development help reduce the risk of SIDS or suffocation and make convenient sleep spaces an easy choice for parents.

Smitten Baby Boxes

Parents Love The Convenience of Baby Boxes for Their Newborns

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