Written by Colleen Goh

Sudden infant death syndrome, or commonly known as SIDS refers to a healthy infant younger than 1 year of age who has had sudden, unexplained death, which was presumed to have occurred during sleep period. This also further described as “cot” death.

In the UK, SIDS claimed the lives of over 200 babies or young children every year. Since parents and carers have been following risk reduction advice, the numbers of SIDS have fallen significantly. The number of cases is almost halved between 1989 to 1990’s after campaigns such as ‘Back to sleep’ and ‘Reduce the risks’ were carried out.

Risk factors

The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, but there are several factors are known to be associated with increased risk. A ‘Triple Risk Model’ proposed by Filiano and Kinney in 1994, emphasizing on the overlapping factors which when combined, will tend to increase the risk of SIDS. Three factors were involved, which are critical developmental period (usually first year of life), underlying vulnerability in the infant (i.e. low birth weight), and an ‘exogenous stressor’ (i.e. being placed in a prone sleeping position). A number of studies also proven that maternal smoking and alcohol abuse during pregnancy rapidly increase the risk of SIDS.


What can I do to help prevent SIDS?

AAP has also released a recommendation on the safe infant sleeping environment.


  • Position your baby (<1-year-old) on their back when they sleep. Side sleeping is not recommended.
  • Your baby should sleep on a flat and firm mattress- there should be no gaps between mattress and the crib
  • Room-sharing with your baby is recommended, especially for infants (<6 months). However, your baby should sleep in his/her own crib, in which the crib placed close to the parent’s bed.
  • Keep baby’s head uncovered where their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders
  • Breastfeeding can reduce risk of SIDS
  • Baby is encouraged to use pacifier at bedtime. Stuffed toys should not be attached to the pacifier.
  • Immunizations may have protective effect


  • Smoke during pregnancy in the same room as your baby
  • Over bundling and covering the face and head of the baby
  • Let your baby get too warm or too cold- a room temperature of 16°C to 20°C with light bedding is ideal and comfortable sleeping environment for your baby
  • Sleep on a bed or armchair with your baby

Please dial for an ambulance if your baby:

  • Stops breathing or turns blue
  • Struggle for breath
  • Is unconscious
  • Does not wake up
  • Has a fit for the first time



Although the incidence decreases since 1990’s, SIDS still remains one of the predominant risk factors of infant death.

To help alleviate and reduces the risks of SIDS, community pharmacists can reach out large number of parents or caregivers of new-borns and educate them on smoking cessation and measures to reduce SIDS. This would help to increase public awareness and keep more infants safe.

Parents are also encouraged to speak to their midwives or maternal child health support should they need any guidance on taking care of a baby, breastfeeding and following the scheduled vaccinations for their infants.


  • uk. (2019). Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-sids/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2019].
  • Harding, M. and Jackson, C. (2015). Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Cot Death Information. SIDS. [online] Patient.info. Available at: https://patient.info/doctor/sudden-infant-death-syndrome [Accessed 21 Sep. 2019].
  • Duncan, J. and Byard, R. (2018). Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: An Overview. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513399/ [Accessed 21 Sep. 2019].
  • Highet AR, Goldwater PN; Maternal and perinatal risk factors for SIDS: a novel analysis utilizing pregnancy outcome data. Eur J Pediatr. 2013 Mar172(3):369-72. doi: 10.1007/s00431-012-1896-0. Epub [Accessed 21 Sep. 2019].
  • Degnan, L. (2013). Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. [online] Uspharmacist.com. Available at: https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-40707 [Accessed 21 Sep. 2019].