Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of an apparently healthy infant, and is one of the
leading causes of death of infants between one month and one year of age. There are 3,000 to 5,000 SIDS deaths nationally
each year- approximately 50-70 of those deaths occur in Colorado. Despite extensive research, the cause of SIDS is unknown.
Because the first symptom of SIDS is death, it is unpredictable and unpreventable. Families whose infants die from SIDS may
face devastating feelings of guilt and fear. The death of an infant significantly affects relatives, friends, and co-workers.
Because a SIDS death is totally unexpected and tragic, the grief of surviving family members is intense and painful. Emotions
experienced by parents may include guilt, anger, fear, shock, denial and prolonged depression. Their suffering is a very
personal experience and can be manifested in may different ways. To all patients, the loss of a baby is devastating.
When there are other children in the family, they are also deeply affected by the death. Their mourning will be as individual
as that of their parents. If very young, these siblings may express their feelings through actions and play rather than verbal
communication. They may develop physical symptoms or regress to less mature behavior. Older children are more likely to develop
problems in school or may suddenly develop extreme fears. Like their parents, the children's reactions can include fear,
anger, guilt, anxiety, and extreme sadness. All these feelings are normal. Time is an important factor in the healing process.
In the United States alone, SIDS is sometimes called crib or cot death. It is estimated that up to 2 deaths per 1, 000 live
births will be caused by SIDS.
||SIDS is not
|A definite medical entity and leading cause of death in infants between 1 month and 1 year
||Caused by external suffering
|Sudden and silent - the infants appear healthy other than a possible cold or infection
||Caused by vomiting or choking
|Currently, unpredictable and unpreventable
||Caused by diptheria, pertussis, tetanus, (DPT) vaccines, or other immunizations
|A death that occurs very rapidly, usually during sleep and with no signs of suffering
||The cause of every unexpected infant death
|When a baby dies, the patients experience a grief reaction that is intensely painful. Many find that it is difficult to concentrate
for any length of time. Their minds wander, making it difficult to read, write, drive or make decisions. Memory problems
are common and parents sometimes say that they feel like they are "going crazy".
Sleep may be disrupted, leaving parents tired and edgy. Even with sleep, a feeling of exhaustion will likely persist. Sometimes
loss of appetite and anxiety are also present as mothers and fathers struggle with the with the overwhelming feelings that
After the initial shock begins to wear off, parents may fall into a prolonged depression. Melancholy can be triggered by
countless things: a thoughtless remark from someone who does not understand SIDS, the sight of a baby near the same age as
the one who died, a song on the radio, etc. At these low points, it may be helpful for the parents to talk with fellow SIDS
parents or attend a support group.
Another parent who has experienced a SIDS death can often help the newly bereaved parent, understand and normalize their feelings
and reactions. They also provide visible proof that things will not always be so grim. Time really does make a difference
in recovering from the tragic loss. If there is no such person available, perhaps the family physician, minister, nurse or
counselor can be a reassuring support.
Because of the profound level of grief, it is important for friends and family to realize that the parents are probably not
going to recover soon. Adjustment to this tragic loss will usually take many months or even years.
The grief of the husband and wife may be expressed differently. This is normal. Generally speaking, women are inclined to
"talk out" their grief, while men tend to grieve more in silence. Parents working outside of the home may be diverted by
their work while parents who stay at home are surrounded by constant reminders of their loss. Very often, they dream of the
infant is the first significant grief situation for either parent.
|Relatives and Child Care Providers
|Sometimes the infant is in the care of relatives or babysitters when the death occurs. This is a special situation and support
or contact with another child care provider who has been through the same experience can be extremely helpful. At first,
parents may blame the relative, the babysitter, or themselves for having left the baby at all. It is imperative that everyone
understands the facts about SIDS so that misunderstandings can be eliminated.
|For additional SIDS information contact:
The Colorado SIDS Program
Website - http://www.coloradosids.org
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org