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Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – sometimes known as "cot death" – is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby.
In the UK, around 200 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly every year. This statistic may sound alarming, but SIDS is rare and the risk of your baby dying from it is low.
Most deaths happen during the first 6 months of a baby's life. Infants born prematurely or with a low birthweight are at greater risk. SIDS also tends to be slightly more common in baby boys.
SIDS usually occurs when a baby is asleep, although it can occasionally happen while they're awake.
Parents can reduce the risk of SIDS by not smoking while pregnant or after the baby is born, and always placing the baby on their back when they sleep.
What causes SIDS? The exact cause of SIDS is unknown, but it's thought to be down to a combination of factors.
Experts believe SIDS occurs at a particular stage in a baby's development and that it affects babies vulnerable to certain environmental stresses.
This vulnerability may be caused by being born prematurely or having a low birthweight, or because of other reasons that have not been identified yet.
Environmental stresses could include tobacco smoke, getting tangled in bedding, a minor illness or a breathing obstruction. There's also an association between co-sleeping (sleeping with your baby on a bed, sofa or chair) and SIDS.
Babies who die of SIDS are thought to have problems in the way they respond to these stresses and how they regulate their heart rate, breathing and temperature.
Although the cause of SIDS is not fully understood, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk.
What can I do to help prevent SIDS?
Seeking medical advice if your baby is unwell. Babies often have minor illnesses that you do not need to worry about. Give your baby plenty of fluids to drink and do not let them get too hot. If you're worried about your baby at any point, see your GP or call NHS 111 for advice.
Immediate action required: Dial 999 for an ambulance if your baby:
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