Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, otherwise known as SIDS, is the unexplained death of a healthy child under the age of one. This normally occurs when the child is asleep and it happens with no warning. Every year in the United States an average of 3,500 children pass away from this devastating diagnosis. 

For decades, doctors have only known that this occurs due to a child’s inability to arouse themselves from sleep. One week ago, a major breakthrough was made, identifying an enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) as the common denominator in SIDS deaths. 

After the loss of her son to this horrific condition and almost 30 years of investigation, Australian researcher Dr. Carmel Harrington has discovered that infants who have passed away from this condition had significantly lower levels of this enzyme in their system. The substantial lack of this protein in their system inhibits their arousal pathways, making them more susceptible to SIDS. 

While there is still a lot of work to be done, this groundbreaking information will hopefully lead to a way to test for a child's risk of SIDS and allow for future interventions to prevent it from ever occurring. 

Ceiling Fan
Photo by Jason Anderson on Unsplash

Currently, the recommended methods for preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome include putting your child to sleep on their back and on a firm sleeping surface with no other bedding in the space. The recommended room temperature is between 68 and 72°F, and studies show that having a ceiling fan running can lower their instance of SIDS by 72 percent.

Swaddled Baby
Photo by Garrett Jackson on Unsplash

Breastfeeding, pacifier use and having your infant sleep in the same room as you for the first six months are all advised. However, co-sleeping is not recommended.

Finally, while swaddling can help, if your child is able to flip over or remove their arms from the fabric, the incidence of SIDS actually increases. Therefore, this practice should only be used for the first few weeks of life.

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