Sudden or unexpected infant death: causes and precautions to be taken

With Dr Raphaël Sebag, pediatrician, head of clinic at Armand Trousseau hospital, in Paris

It is the number one cause of death in infants before the age of one year. In France, every year, 250 to 350 babies die unexpected infant death syndrome. Without any particular reason, the child stopped breathing, it was a sudden death. It often happens at night.

The High Health Authority (HAS) now uses it to group multifactorial situations of death of children aged 0 to 2 years that remain unexplained post-mortem, or occur:

  • cause unknown at time of death;
  • causes initially considered life-threatening or rapidly progressing;
  • special circumstances (bed accident, trauma or intoxication)

What causes sudden infant death syndrome?

Are there risk factors that cause unexpected infant death syndrome? “The cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), now called Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (IMD), is not fully understood. There are several risk factors that can be avoided,” said Dr. Raphaël Sebag. These :

  • the sleeping position which should not be on the stomach or side
  • sharing a bed with parents (co-sleeping);
  • sleeping environment : the use of blankets, eiderdowns, pillows, sheepskin, bumpers and positioning cushions or baby wedges;
  • the lying surface which is better to be firm with a suitable mattress;
  • the conditions of carriage which can cause aburial and chest compression;
  • The passive smoking

There are also unavoidable risk factors, including:

  • prematurity and low birth weight
  • gender (MSN affects 65% of men);
  • genetic polymorphism (genetic mutations);
  • The geographic location and the climate (when it’s a bit cold)

Unexpected infant death syndrome (MIN or MSN): until what age is a child at risk?

“The risk period for unexpected infant death (MIN) is between 0 and 2 years, with a peak between 0 and 6 months”, said Dr. Sebag.

Although sometimes unavoidable, there is protective effects for the baby, including:

  • up-to-date vaccinations for the baby
  • regular use of pacifiers, as the suction helps keep the tongue forward, thus keeping the airways clear
  • breastfeeding (the protective effect increases in the event of exclusive and prolonged breastfeeding)
  • Iand room sharing parents for the first 6 months (co-rooming without co-sleeping)
  • with a suitable bed: a bed with a firm structure (for example, a bed with bars), a firm mattress of a size adapted to the bed and a sleeping bag of a size suitable for babies and with a thickness of adapted to the ambient temperature
  • removing all unnecessary items such as stuffed toys, bed bumpers or bed mats
  • put him to sleep in a room at the right temperature (between 19°C and 21°C) in the supine position (lying on your back)
  • avoid at all costs the consumption of cigarettes near the child

“It is also recommended not to use cocoons or baby wedges, which tend to block the airways”, added the doctor.

The baby sleeps anywhere, all the time… But for his safety, it is however important that he does not stay long anywhere but his bed to sleep. ” Strollers, bouncers and car seat are not designed to allow babies to sleep on them. When sleeping in a sitting position, the baby’s head can fall forward and block their airways. As soon as possible, we need to move him to a bed,” details of the head of the clinic.

Sudden infant death syndrome: are siblings more at risk?

Siblings Children who die from sudden infant death syndrome are 5 times more likely to die from it compared to the average. A genetic or environmental link has not yet been demonstrated.

Are mattresses or other materials effective in preventing sudden infant death syndrome?

Although all these tools seem handy for facilitating parent’s lifethey will not, in reality, be as useful as a real parental presence.

“These devices are gadgets, the best way to check if the baby is breathing is to stay next to him during the first 6 months and sleep nearby”, pediatrician graduation.

To ensure themselves and take all the necessary steps to prevent SIDS, future parents should ask for information before the birth of their baby to know the preventive measures and protective effects.

The unexpected infant death referral centers (CRMIN) is trained to care for families affected by this unexpected death. Their role is also to train health professionals so that they can provide all the right information to parents and parents-to-be.

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