Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a baffling diagnosis because it comes only when a seemingly healthy infant is laid down for a nap or at bedtime no different from all the other naps and bedtimes that have come before. The terribly baffling part of a SIDS diagnosis is that it comes only after that seemingly healthy sleeping baby fails to wake up.
SIDS is no less baffling for the medical community than it is to grieving parents and family members. SIDS is a diagnosis given when no other cause of death can be found during autopsy or other post-mortem examinations.
In recent years, we’ve been urged to be frugal about the fluffy pillows, blankets, and toys we place in a sleeping baby’s bed. Too much soft bedding can strangulate a sleeping baby who doesn’t yet have the strength to turn his or her head in a different position for freer breathing.
We’ve been advised repeatedly that smoking is linked to SIDS. Fathers who smoke should seriously consider quitting before the baby’s born, if not before the pregnancy begins.
Babies born to mothers who smoke are at very high risk of dying from SIDS, much more so than babies born to mothers who don’t smoke. Behavioral and developmental problems are also associated with the children of mothers who smoked during pregnancy and/or after the birth of the child.
British researchers have recently announced the possibility of yet another cause of SIDS – two very common bacteria. Of 365 cases studied, almost half of them, 181 of the 365, involved the presence of Staphylococcus aureaus and E. coli.
The research team, from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, doesn’t know if the bacteria are solely responsible for the SIDS diagnoses or if the bacteria intensify the ill effects of underlying conditions that were not detected earlier.