Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a sudden unexplained death in an infant. It is sometimes referred to as “cot death”. This usually occurs within the first six months of life.


Risk Factors

  • Prematurity
  • Low birth weight
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Male baby (only slightly increased risk)


Minimising the Risk

Measures to reduce the risk of SIDS include:

  • Put the baby on their back when not directly supervised
  • Keep their head uncovered
  • Place their feet at the foot of the bed to prevent them sliding down and under the blanket
  • Keep the cot clear of lots of toys and blankets
  • Maintain a comfortable room temperature (16 – 20 ºC)
  • Avoid smoking. Avoid handling the baby after smoking (smoke stays on clothes).
  • Avoid co-sleeping, particularly on a sofa or chair
  • If co-sleeping avoid alcohol, drugs, smoking, sleeping tablets or deep sleepers

TOM TIP: Discussing SIDS is a common OSCE station, requiring you to counsel a parent that is worried about sudden infant death. They may be worried because a previous infant has been affected or they know someone else that has been affected. A very important aspect of the station is to empathise and be understanding of their anxiety. It is also important to give them advice in a way that does not imply blame and is non-judgemental. For example, don’t say “it probably happened because you smoke and slept in the same bed”. You can talk about things “increasing the risk” but not causing it. Frame things in a positive way: “there are lots of things we can do to reduce the risk and make it much less likely to happen”.



The lullaby trust is a great charity to help support families affected. Bereavement services and bereavement counselling should be available for affected families.


Care of Next Infant (CONI)

The CONI team supports parents with their next infant after a sudden infant death. This provides extra support and home visits, resuscitation training and access to equipment such as movement monitors that alarm if the baby stops breathing for a prolonged period.


Last updated January 2020
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