Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) | Diagnosis & Treatments

How Boston Children's diagnoses Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)          

Currently, there is no diagnostic test available for SIDS. A diagnosis of SIDS is reached only when the cause of death remains unexplained after a death scene investigation, an autopsy and a review of the clinical history. Similarly, there is currently no way to predict babies that are at risk of SIDS.

How we address SIDS

There currently is no way of predicting which babies die from SIDS. However, early and regular prenatal care can help reduce the risk of SIDS. And there are many precautions that you can take to lower the risk of your baby dying from SIDS:

  • Put your baby on his back while he sleeps.
    • Parents, babysitters, day care workers and other caregivers should always put babies to sleep on their backs, instead of on their stomachs.
    • Studies have shown that putting babies to sleep on their backs has reduced the number of SIDS cases by as much as a half.
    • Use other positions only if your doctor recommends that you do so. In some instances, doctors may recommend that babies be placed on their stomachs to sleep if they have certain disorders, such as gastroesophageal reflux or some upper airway disorders, which make babies more likely to have choking or breathing problems while lying on their backs.
  • Place your baby on his tummy while he's awake.
    • A certain amount of time spent on the tummy while your baby is awake and being cared for is important for motor development of his shoulders.
    • “Awake time” spent on the stomach may help prevent flat spots from developing on the back of your baby's head.
  • Make sure that your baby sleeps on a firm mattress or other firm surface.
    • Don't use fluffy blankets or comforters over or under your baby.
    • Don't let your baby sleep on a waterbed, sheepskin, a pillow, or other soft materials.
    • When your baby is very young, don't place soft stuffed toys or pillows in the crib with him. Some babies have smothered with these soft materials in the crib.
    • Don't place bumper pads around your baby's crib.
  • Babies should be kept warm, but not too warm. An overheated baby is more likely to go into a deep sleep from which it is difficult for him to arouse.
  • Bring your baby's crib into your room for the first six months, possibly because it's easier to monitor your baby when he sleeps in the same room as you.
  • Avoid bed-sharing.
    • While bed-sharing may have certain benefits, there are no scientific studies demonstrating that bed-sharing reduces SIDS. Some studies suggest that bed-sharing, under certain conditions, may actually increase the risk of SIDS
  • Make sure that your baby has a smoke-free environment.
    • Don't smoke when you're pregnant.
    • Don't let anyone smoke around your baby. Babies and young children exposed to smoke have an increased risk of SIDS, as well as more colds and other diseases.
  • If your baby seems to be sick, call your doctor right away.
    • Parents should be sure to take their babies for their regular well-baby check-ups and routine immunizations.
  • If possible, breastfeed your baby.
    • Evidence suggests that breastfeeding might reduce the risk of SIDS, for reasons that aren't fully understood.


Children's Infant Follow-Up Program

Children who are born prematurely benefit from special monitoring and intervention during their first years of life. Our Infant Follow-Up Program (IFUP) provides ongoing medical and developmental evaluation and support for very premature infants.