Every SIDS Death a Tragedy: New Research Offers Hope

In Brief:

  • 2,000 babies die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the US each year.
  • Incidence of SIDS declined 50% in the 1990s due to public awareness campaign about infants sleeping positions.
  • There is no cure for SIDS, but new research provides insight into its causes and risk factors.

John and Amy, now divorced, were devastated by the unexpected loss of their infant son, Jimmy. At three months of age, Jimmy died suddenly in his sleep. Even after an autopsy was performed, they still did not know why he died. Jimmy was just one of the 2,000 newborn babies who succumb every year to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

SIDS is the leading cause of post-natal death in the United States. Sadly, this deadly syndrome not only takes new life but leaves shattered families in its wake. Because their baby’s death is sudden and without explanation, grieving parents often blame themselves. Such pervasive guilt can lead to depression and destroy marriages.

Yet, there is some good news. Research scientists like Dr. Judith Neubauer at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey are trying to understand SIDS in order to help new parents avoid this tragedy.

SIDS_NeubauerWhat is SIDS?
According to the Mayo Clinic, SIDS is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. Diagnosed by a process of elimination, often after an autopsy, SIDS shows no apparent pattern between victims.

Not technically a disease, it cannot be cured. However, guidelines have been developed that are proving effective in reducing the incidence of SIDS. Consequently, guidelines are available to inform parents of at-risk infants, reducing the number of SIDS victims every year. Preemptive measures include putting the baby on his/her back to sleep, not sleeping with the baby in the same bed, and not smoking during pregnancy.

SIDSPromising Research
Researchers are studying a variety of factors to solve the mystery of SIDS. These include everything from brain abnormalities and respiratory infection to which side the baby should sleep on.

Dr. Neubauer has dedicated the better part of her professional life to researching the neurobiology of respiratory control, particularly as it relates to SIDS. Her team has focused on the ability of the rat nervous system to regulate hypoxia, or the lack of oxygen in body tissues, which is one possible cause of SIDS.

Following a different path, UCLA researchers found that SIDS babies had difficulty breathing during sleep as early as their first week of life. They hypothesized that the inability to control breathing is due to an apparent fetal defect.

Scientists like Dr. Neubauer are working tirelessly to prevent SIDS by identifying risk factors and causes. They are committed to a future without SIDS, a future where thousands of parents are no longer traumatized by sudden loss of their babies.

Works Cited

  1. Carroll, John. “Abnormal Respiratory Control Found in Infants Who Later Died of SIDS.” On SIDS, Suffocation, Asphyxia, and Sleeping Position. SIDS Network, Inc, 20 May 1996. Web. 9 Aug. 2015.
  2. “Facts About Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” Facts About Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) . SIDS Network, Inc, 2015. Web. 9 Aug. 2015.
  3. “How Can I Reduce the Risk of SIDS?” USA. gov. NICDH, 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 8 Aug. 2015.
  4. Kinney, Hannah & Bradley Thatch, “The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” New England Journal of Medicine, 8/20/09, pp 795-805.
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” Mayoclinic.org. Mayo Clinic, 17 May 2014. Web. 9 Aug. 2015.
  6. “SIDS Training.” Instructor Guide. Indiana Firefighter Training System, June 2013. Web. 8 Aug. 2015.

Katelyn McCreedy: Editor-in-Chief
Vivian Qiang: Creative Team Coordinator
Manasa Gadiraju: Team Copy Editor
Laura Vorbach: Assistant Team Copy Editor
Kathryn Jiang: Team Graphic Designer

Image Credits:
Feature Image: [Devon D’Ewart. License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Story Image: Graphic by Staff Illustrator, Vivian Qiang

This article was written by Tyler Meli. As always, before leaving a response to this article please view our Rules of Conduct. Thanks! -cYw Editorial Staff

Tyler Meli

Author: Tyler Meli

Hello users of the interweb and welcome to the curiousSCIENCEwriters website! I am currently a senior in high school and this is my second year of writing for cSw. My passion for the STEM fields is unmatched and I aspire to pursue business and law as majors in college and possible careers further into the future. Writing for cSw has been a one-of-a-kind experience; I hope to be in similar programs throughout my years at college. I encourage you to leave a comment down below and share your thoughts or questions regarding the article.

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  1. Avatar

    Thank you for sharing and exploring this important topic. As a mother of infant twins I found your story to be of great value.

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  2. Avatar

    Tyler, it is important to bring attention to issues like SIDS so we can all become aware and learn to understand the complexities SIDS and other preventable infant health risks. My question to is what do you think the medical community is doing to help raise awareness to this issue? In addition, are there statistics that trend higher in certain countries over others?

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  3. Avatar

    Hi Tyler,

    This was a nicely researched and reported piece. I enjoyed reading it, and brushing up on current research in SIDS. Keep up the good work, and good luck in your future endeavors!

    Post a Reply
  4. Avatar

    A short but Informative article on a topic very difficult to discuss because of its “Unknown” nature. I was drawn in by the subject, as may other parents will be, and hoped that it would share some new breakthroughs.

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  5. Avatar

    Good article and it interested me enough that I would like to get more information on this subject

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  6. Avatar

    Well thought out and presented. Posited new theories that have not been highlighted to shed light a syndrome that has touched the lives of many young parents

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  7. Avatar

    Are there any precautions that hospitals can (or already do) take to test a newborns breathing, like they do with hearing and sight?

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  8. Avatar

    Very interesting, although my kids hated sleeping on their backs. we found that they slept better on their stomach.

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  9. Avatar

    Research and creating awareness is certainly needed to prevent future occurrences of SIDS. Your passion for this and related subject matters will help society gain a better understanding of such topics that are not always talked about or understood for that matter. Keep up the good work. I look forward to future posts.

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  10. Avatar

    Interesting read, I hope they find the cause soon so future SIDS deaths can be avoided.

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  11. Avatar

    The way you communicated medical facts was enjoyable and easy to read.
    Recently, I have been called on to take care of several newborns so this information was informative.
    I appreciate having a this knowledge so I can confidently care for such precious lives.

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  12. Avatar

    Well written Tyler! This article is definitely raising awareness good for you!

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  13. Avatar

    Tyler, very well written and very informative.

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  14. Avatar

    Very insightful. As a new parent I am constantly watching my baby and making sure I follow any new preventative guidelines.
    Per your UCLA researchers citation, I wonder if there is something parents can do in the early weeks to prevent SIDS. I had read during my pregnancy, that the first weeks baby’s are developing their respiratory systems so they may take breaks breathing or just have irregular breathing in the first month or so, and this shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. What if it is? I thought this point particularly was very interesting and maybe there are early signs we can detect and help prevent these tragedies.
    Best of luck, keep up the good work.

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  15. Avatar

    Interested to hear if hospitals will start to perform more evaluations of infant’s respiratory systems prior to release.

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  16. Avatar

    This is an interesting and sensitive topic, and it seems like the “tip of the iceberg” for more in-depth review. Well written piece, Tyler, keep up the good work.

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  17. Avatar

    Well written and very informative

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