Risk Factors for SIDS

flat-surface-onlySudden Infant Death Syndrome is unpredictable by nature, striking seemingly-healthy babies, usually between two and six months old, while they sleep. SIDS cases are not distributed evenly over race and gender lines, however, and there are some identified risk factors for infant death:

Brain development abnormalities

It is thought that some babies are born without full control of breathing and arousal from sleep, which makes them more susceptible to SIDS.

Low birth weight

Premature births, and multiple births, make it more likely that a child’s brain will not be fully developed, increasing the likelihood of SIDS death.

Prior respiratory infections

SIDS is often related to breathing difficulties, which can be the result of a recent cold or infection.


Male infants are twice as likely to die of SIDS than female babies.


SIDS cases are most prevalent between the second and third months of an infant’s life.


Although the causes aren’t well understood, African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Eskimo infants are more likely to die from SIDS.

Family history of SIDS

In families where one baby has previously died from SIDS (a sibling or cousin), SIDS deaths appear to be more likely.

Maternal factors

SIDS is more prevalent when the mother is under the age of 20, has smoked cigarettes during pregnancy, used drugs or alcohol, or hasn’t had adequate prenatal care.


There is no cure for SIDS, and the exact causes have yet to be identified. If you are a parent or caregiver, click here to see our Sudden Infant Death Syndrome reduction guidelines.