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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is something no parent wants to think about but should. According to First Candle/SIDS Alliance, a national nonprofit organization based in Baltimore, SIDS is the No. 1 cause of death in infants between ages 1 month and 1 year. Known risk factors associated with SIDS include stomach sleeping; smoking in the home; overdressing the baby; and placing pillows, blankets, bumpers and other soft items in the crib.
But the latest research is pointing to a possible biological cause: Babies who die of SIDS lack receptor cells that facilitate the communication of vital functions, such as breathing, heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and arousal, to the brain. "It's like a short circuit in their alarm system," says Laura Reno, public affairs director for First Candle/SIDS Alliance. It's possible that such babies are more susceptible to challenges in their sleep environment.
The best precautions: Always place your baby on his back on a firm mattress with everything else removed from the crib (dress him in a sleep sack), and duplicate this environment anywhere your baby sleeps, such as day care.