Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of an infant under one-year-old that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation. SIDS is not a diagnosis, but rather a category of deaths used to classify infant and young child fatalities for which the cause of death is unknown after a thorough investigation.
SIDS has long been the number one cause of death in children under twelve months old. The term was coined in 1969 by a medical examiner, Dr. Robert S. Beck who was looking to develop further understanding of this area of infant deaths. Prior to this time, parents were often blamed for these mysterious deaths and it wasn’t until 1973 that the official cause of death was changed from “accidental suffocation” to SIDS.
The term sudden infant death syndrome is often used interchangeably with sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) or sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). However, the terms are not synonymous and although they are very similar, there are some differences. SIDS is defined as the sudden death of an infant under one year of age that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation, including a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of clinical history. SUID/SUDI includes all sudden unexpected infant deaths (including SIDS) plus deaths due to accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed and other sleeping environments. The majority of SUIDs/SUDIs occur in an unsafe sleep environment such as a sofa or waterbed, or with an adult who may be impaired either due to illness, drugs, alcohol, fatigue, or inappropriate sleep practices.