Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – What’s the difference?

Safe sleep practices

Safe sleep practices are a safeguard for both

Recently, people have started to use two different phrases, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) interchangeably. There is a difference however:

SUID is the death of an infant less than 1 year of age that occurs suddenly and unexpectedly.  There are three causes for SUID:

  • SIDS – Sometimes called crib death, The sudden unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year of age that doesn’t have a known cause after a complete investigation. While promising new research is pointing to one possible cause, there is still no way to determine which babies are most at risk but, by adopting safe sleep practices, families can reduce the risk.
  • Accidental Suffocation and Strangulation in Bed (ASSB) is the second cause. It’s important to know that this does not necessarily happen in bed.  It can occur when a baby rolls onto and gets wedged between couch cushions, sleeping on an adult’s chest, or in a crib with blankets, pillows and stuffed animals.  While these are accidental deaths, ASSB can be prevented by adopting safe sleep practices.
  • Undetermined – If the evidence isn’t clear or there’s not enough information, the cause of death will be considered Undetermined.

All of these are considered sleep-related infant deaths.

Alison Jacobson, CEO of First Candle, explains,

“For many families, practicing safe sleep is something every parent intends to do but sometimes it doesn’t happen. We all want to do what’s best and safest for baby but there’s the reality of being an exhausted parent.  We know that at some point during the night a majority of babies end up in an adult bed, sometimes to be fed or other times to be comforted.  During this time, it’s easy for a parent to fall asleep so put a plan into place ahead of time:

  • Set an alarm so if you fall asleep while nursing you can wake up.
  • Have your partner take the baby once you’re done breastfeeding.

It’s important to note that breastfeeding in a recliner or on a couch can be more dangerous that breastfeeding in bed as, if you fall asleep, baby can roll off onto the floor or get wedged in the cushions.”

Here are some things you can do to protect your baby from SUID:

Let babies have their own sleeping space such as a crib or bassinet, with a firm and flat mattress and no loose bedding. To make sure the mattress is firm enough just press your hand onto it and then raise it. If you can still see your handprint, it’s too soft.

You might feel like a bare crib or bassinet isn’t cozy, but for babies it’s the perfect place! Blankets, stuffed animals and pillows in bed are harmful because even tiny babies can work their way next to or under them, and accidently suffocate if their breathing is muffled by a soft mattress or comforter. Baby can also get tangled in loose bedding and strangle, so it is safer to give them a clear, open sleeping space.

Place babies on their backs for sleep. Sometimes families might feel babies sleep better on their tummies, but we’ve seen that when they start out sleeping on their backs, they really do sleep fine, and back-sleeping is the number one thing you can do to lower the risk of SIDS and prevent accidental suffocation.

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