Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

In this article we’ll cover some information about SIDS including what it is, statistics and preventions.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

SIDS refers to the sudden and unexpected death of baby where no cause is found. Read our article below for more information about SIDS and some tips for prevention.

What is SIDS?

The sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby is usually referred to as ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’ or ‘SIDS’ for short. It may also be called ‘sudden unexpected death in infancy’ (SUDI) or ‘sudden unexpected death in childhood’ (SUDC), if the baby was over 12 months old.

Some sudden and unexpected deaths can be explained after a post-mortem examination. There may have been an unforeseen infection or metabolic disorder. Deaths that remain a mystery even after a thorough examination will usually be registered as SIDS or SUDC. Sometimes other terms like SUDI or ‘unascertained’ may be used.

SIDS Statistics

SIDS is rare and the risk of your baby dying from it is low. In 2017 (the most recent statistics we have), there were 755,042 live births in the UK. Of these live births, 200 babies later succumbed to SIDS. SIDS causes 0.26 deaths per 1,000 live births.

88% of SIDS deaths happen in the first 6 months of life. Boys are also at a greater risk of SIDS than girls. Nearly 55% of unexplained deaths in the UK were boys. [1]

What causes SIDS?

The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, but it is believed to be due to combination of factors.

Identified vulnerabilities that can cause babies to be at a higher risk of SIDS are premature birth or low birth weight of under 2.5kgs. [2]

Environmental stressors could cause your baby to be at a greater risk of SIDS. These stressors are tobacco smoke, getting tangled in bedding, a minor illness or a breathing obstruction. There’s also an association between co-sleeping and SIDS. Babies who die from SIDS are believed to have problems in the way that they respond to these environmental stressors.

Although the cause of SIDS is unknown, there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of it occurring.

How can I help to prevent SIDS?

Unfortunately, SIDS cannot be completely prevented. There are several dos and don’ts to help to reduce the risk of it occurring considerably.


  1. Always place your baby on their back every time they sleep, day or night. This can reduce the risk of SIDS by 6 times compared to front sleeping. [3]
  2. Keep your baby smoke free during pregnancy and after birth. Around 60% of SIDS cases could be avoided if no baby was exposed to smoke. [4]
  3. If you can, breastfeed your baby. The risk of SIDS is halved in babies who are breastfed exclusively for at least 2 months. [5]
  4. Share a room with your baby for the first 6 months. This too can halve the risk of SIDS. [6]
  5. Use a firm, flat waterproof mattress in good condition.
  6. Be sure to follow the ‘feet to foot’ sleeping position. Your baby’s feet should be at the foot of the cot.
  7. Keep the cot clear. Remove all pillows, soft bedding, cot bumpers, and soft toys from the cot and don’t use loose bedding.


  1. Sleep on a sofa or in an armchair with your baby. This can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times. [7]
  2. Co-sleep with your baby if you or your partner smoke, have drunk alcohol, or take any medications that make you drowsy.
  3. Co sleep with your baby if they were born prematurely, were a low birth weight, or you are extremely tired.
  4. Cover your baby’s face or head whilst sleeping or use loose bedding
  5. Let your baby get too hot or too cold. A room temperature of 16-20°C with light bedding or a lightweight, well-fitting baby sleep bag is safe for sleeping babies. [8]

These points are especially important for babies who were born prematurely or of a low birth weight, as these babies are at a higher risk of SIDS.

I’m worried about SIDS, who can I talk to?

You can talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor is you have any questions or concerns regarding SIDS.

A great resource also available to parents in the UK is the Lullaby Trust. They can offer safer sleep advice, or support to bereaved families.

1: SIDS Statistics

2: Premature & Low Birth Weight Babies

3: Sleeping Position

4: Smoking

5: Breastfeeding

6: Room Sharing

7: Co-Sleeping

8: Room Temperature