Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

  • Medical Author: Patrick L. Carolan, MD
  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

Does the supine (back) sleep position cause any problems for infants?

Recent studies have evaluated the effect of back sleeping on an infant's motor development. Babies younger than 1 year of age who slept on their backs showed slightly decreased upper trunk strength as reflected in mild delays in their ability to crawl, sit upright unassisted, or pull to stand.

  • However, it is important to emphasize that face-up sleepers still attained these milestones within the accepted time range for normal development. No significant difference in gross motor development was seen by the time either infant group started to walk.
  • Parents should incorporate a certain amount of tummy time while the infant is awake and observed. This type of play while baby is on his or her tummy is recommended for developmental reasons and may also help to prevent flattening of parts of the skull, called plagiocephaly, from developing or persisting on the back of the head.

What support is available to parents who are coping with an infant loss due to SIDS?

Most areas within the United States have access to support services for families following a SIDS death. Each family's grief is unique. However, many families that have experienced SIDS have found it helpful to use the counseling resources that may be provided through public-health nursing agencies, local coroner, or medical examiner offices, or information and counseling programs based at many children's hospitals across the country.

Losing a child is a unique crisis for any family, especially when the child has died suddenly, unexpectedly, and for no apparent reason.

  • Do not blame yourselves! Losing a child to SIDS is not your fault.
  • There are typically no warning signs or symptoms that you could have recognized or prevented.

Grieving is a normal process when dealing with the loss of a loved one. Family, friends, neighbors, workplace, or faith communities may all serve as sources of support. It is important to remember that you are not alone. There are formal support groups and counseling programs available to help you cope with your loss. For further information, you may contact these groups:

National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, NICHD/Back to Sleep Campaign
31 Center Drive, Room 2A32
Bethesda, MD 20892-2425
Phone: 800-370-2943
Fax: 301-496-7101

First Candle (SIDS Alliance)
2105 Laurel Bush Road, Suite 201
Bel Air, MD 21015
800-221-7437 (toll free)

Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs (a national network of SIDS support groups)

Minnesota Sudden Infant Death Center
2525 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55404

National SUID/SIDS Resource Center
The Resource Center is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
2115 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 601
Washington, DC 20007
866-866-7437 (toll free)

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/9/2015

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