At what age is SIDS most common

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Sudden infant death usually occurs in the first year of life. Around 90 percent of all cases occur in the first six months of life; most often between the second and fourth month of life. In the first four weeks of life and after the first year of life, however, SIDS hardly occurs. In principle, however, sudden infant death syndrome can also occur after the first year of life. Boys are slightly more affected than girls. Died in Germany 127 children in 2015 from sudden infant death syndrome. The numbers have been falling for years. In 1990, 1,283 children died of sudden infant death syndrome. It is assumed that the influenceable risk factors have a strong influence on this development.

In this article you will read:

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Causes

The exact causes of sudden infant death syndrome have not yet been clearly clarified. One suspects multifactorial causes. This means that several factors and circumstances increase your risk for SIDS. Some of these risk factors are known. They are divided into internal (endogenous) and external (exogenous) risk factors.

Endogenous (uncontrollable) risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome:

  • Premature birth, especially with very low birth weights
  • young age of the mother
  • drug addict mother
  • single mother
  • Malformations of organs
  • genetic predisposition (familial accumulation)

Exogenous (modifiable) risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome:

Non-breastfeeding and previous infections by bacteria or viruses are discussed as further risk factors. However, a direct connection with sudden infant death syndrome has not yet been proven. There is now also evidence that more children die of sudden infant death syndrome in winter, especially in the months of January to March.

The probabilitythat a baby dies of sudden infant death syndrome increases the more of the above risk factors are met. However, it cannot be calculated because, despite the increasing probability, death does not necessarily occur. With 127 children annually (as of 2015) in Germany, sudden infant death syndrome is still comparatively rare, albeit dramatic.

Sudden child death: up to what age is the risk?

Sudden infant death syndrome is more likely to affect babies under one year old. Statistically speaking, the highest probability is between the second and fourth month of life. For infants over the age of one, the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome is extremely low.

Are there any signs of sudden infant death syndrome?

The vast majority of infants die unnoticed at night from sudden infant death syndrome. They are usually only found lifeless in bed in the morning. However, there are some signs beforehand that you should see a pediatrician immediately if they occur:

  • Blue discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes, especially the lips
  • Heavy sweating
  • Baby's shortness of breath, shallow breathing, and pauses in breathing
  • Flaccid muscles
  • Frequent vomiting and problems drinking

If you have a respiratory infection or a fever, it is also advisable to see a doctor. It is important that the baby's airway is clear so that he can get enough air.

What can I do if Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is suspected?

If vital functions can still be identified, immediate resuscitation is required. First of all, these are mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and cardiac massage. The emergency doctor who is called can take further measures to stabilize the baby.

How is sudden infant death syndrome diagnosed?

Post-death examinations include an autopsy of the child and an analysis of the circumstances surrounding the death. Only when no direct or indirect cause can be found is the diagnosis of cot death made. If sudden infant death syndrome is suspected, an autopsy can be carried out with the parents' consent. This is important in several ways: First, a non-natural cause of death is excluded. This is especially important for parents to process what is happening. The findings of the autopsy can also be used to research sudden infant death syndrome.

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Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: The "3-R-Rule"

Since the exact causes of sudden infant death syndrome have not yet been clearly clarified, it cannot be specifically prevented. The external risk factors can, however, be influenced. The most important thing is to observe the 3-R rule: Supine position, smoke-free, properly bedded. The right sleeping environment can help prevent SIDS. It is advisable to follow a few simple rules.

Which sleeping environment is recommended?

"Sleeping properly" plays an important role in sudden infant death syndrome. The ideal sleeping environment is initially your own bed in the parents' bedroom. Cots are particularly recommended, as they do not hinder the air circulation in the bed. Babies do not need a pillow or blanket - a sleeping bag is sufficient. Make sure that the neckline of the sleeping bag is no larger than the baby's head so that it cannot slip into the sleeping bag. A hat or other headgear should also be avoided.

Not using bedding protects against overheating and also ensures that breathing is not hindered. "Building a nest", i.e. changing the upholstery of the baby in bed, does not make sense either.

The ideal room temperature is 16 to 18 degrees. It is advisable to ventilate the bedroom regularly. Direct sunlight or near heating should be avoided. We also recommend a firm, air-permeable mattress with a smooth surface that is no more than ten centimeters thick. The sleeping position is also important: the ideal position is to lie on your back. Pacifiers are also said to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Does a special mattress make sense?

Some manufacturers advertise with special mattresses that allow better ventilation and thus have increased carbon dioxide permeability. Such mattresses are designed to protect against sudden infant death syndrome. According to Stiftung Warentest, it has not been proven whether such mattresses really reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. It is much more important that the baby sleeps on its back. Even a special mattress shouldn't tempt parents to let their baby sleep on their stomach.

New study names sleep in the parents' bed as a risk factor

An international team of researchers examined data from European countries and New Zealand on sudden infant death syndrome. The data was published in May 2013 in a renowned specialist magazine. 1,500 cases of sudden infant death syndrome were compared with 4,700 control cases from 19 countries. It was calculated that eight out of 100,000 babies died of sudden infant death while sleeping in their cot for no explainable cause. However, when the babies slept in their parents' bed, the number rose to 23 out of 100,000, even if no additional risk factors were present. Babies under three months of age who sleep in bed with their parents are most at risk. Experts therefore advise letting the baby sleep in its own bed from the start and avoiding so-called co-sleeping. The baby sleeps safest in the extra bed in the parents' bedroom. For example, in the Netherlands, where a public campaign advised against sleeping together in the parents' bed, the number of sudden infant deaths fell from twelve to nine per 100,000 newborns between 2000 and 2010. In Germany, the number of sudden child deaths in 2011 was 22 out of 100,000 children (147 child deaths from cot death).


It is generally advisable not to over-dress babies to sleep. Headgear should be avoided indoors and while sleeping, as babies conduct excess body heat to the outside via the head. Diaper and pajamas are perfectly adequate sleepwear.

Even during pregnancy, smoke can damage the unborn child. And later on, you should of course refrain from smoking in the vicinity of the baby, not just to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Sudden infant death: an overview of protective measures

  • Sleeping in the parents 'room, but not in the parents' bed,
  • Sleeping on your back,
  • Using a sleeping bag instead of a blanket,
  • Avoid overheating,
  • Refrain from smoking in the apartment,
  • Breastfeeding (up to at least the 4th month).

It is also advisable for parents to have attended a first aid course for babies so that in an emergency they can reanimate their child before it comes to sudden infant death syndrome.

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Common questions about sudden infant death syndrome / SIDS

In the following we have collected the most frequently asked questions from our readers about sudden infant death syndrome and answered them for you at a glance.

Why does a baby die of sudden infant death syndrome?

The causes of sudden infant death syndrome are still unknown. The phenomenon is considered to be multifactorial: individual factors alone or in combination lead to sudden cardiac respiratory arrest: the children die in their sleep - unnoticed by their relatives. In the rarest of cases, an autopsy of the dead child is done. The autopsy rarely reveals that the child had a previously undetected disease - but whether this disease was the cause of death can almost never be clarified.

Do the children suffer when they die of sudden infant death syndrome?

Most babies seem to die peacefully - without pain or stress. Some also die peacefully in their parents' arms.

Do babies only die of cot death during the night?

No. Sudden infant death syndrome can occur anytime, anywhere. Sudden infant death syndrome usually occurs between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. There are babies who die in their parents' arms, but most of the time babies are found dead in the cradle or cot.

At what age is the risk of sudden child death highest?

Sudden infant death syndrome usually occurs between the first and fourth months of a baby's life - rarely in the second half of the year. In 90 percent of all cases, the babies are younger than six months.

Can I reduce the risk of my baby dying from sudden infant death syndrome?

Yes, there are ways to reduce your risk of sudden infant death syndrome:

  • Lay the baby on his back to sleep.
  • It is advisable that both parents quit smoking.
  • Do not allow smoking in the same room the baby is in.
  • Make sure that the baby is not overheated and that the child is in the correct sleeping environment.
  • Make sure that the baby cannot get caught in the bedspread - a baby sleeping bag is ideal.
  • If you feel that the baby is not doing well, contact your doctor.
  • Do not sleep in the same bed with the baby - especially if you are breastfeeding and alcoholic: Why it is not advisable to drink or take sleeping pills, or if you are on medication that make you sleepy.
  • Let your child sleep in their own cot in the parents' bedroom for at least the first six months.
  • Do not fall asleep with the baby on the sofa.
  • Breastfeed your baby.
  • If your child uses a pacifier, give it to them to sleep.

Are the siblings of a child who died of cot death at risk?

Sudden infant death syndrome occurs very rarely in children older than one year. The probability that the older siblings have an increased risk is therefore low. However, if you have twins or triplets, it may be advisable to have the siblings examined by the doctor and observed for a while.

Is it true that vaccinations are to blame for sudden infant death syndrome?

No, there is no evidence of this so far, even if anti-vaccination campaigners like to cite it again and again. The opposite is probably the case, because according to the latest scientific findings, vaccinated children are less likely to suffer from sudden infant death syndrome. An alleged Japanese study on cot death and vaccination was shown to be bogus to support the claim, as there was no other evidence.

Does Sudden Infant Death Syndrome only occur in certain families?

No. Less than one percent of the cases in which Sudden Infant Death Syndrome occurs are genetic (e.g. due to an enzyme defect). It is very rare for sudden infant deaths to occur more than once in a family.

Is there a time of the year when sudden infant death syndrome is more common?

Sudden infant death syndrome occurs at any time of the year. Until recently, it was observed that a little more babies died of sudden infant death syndrome during the winter months. But since the total number of babies affected began to decline due to advances in research and better monitoring options, that winter peak has almost disappeared.

What if it really hits us?

Sudden infant death syndrome is a hard blow of fate for affected parents, which unfortunately cannot always be prevented despite all precautionary measures. SIDS is diagnosed when no other cause of death can be determined. It is important for parents to know that they are not to be blamed!

Parents get in contact with other affected persons, for example through the Joint Parents' Initiative Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (GEPS) or other self-help groups.

Why do the police get involved when a child dies suddenly?

It is switched on because it is an unexplained death. It is the job of the police to make sure that this is not a violent crime.

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