There are a several new terms in use these days that all describe the same tragic event of losing your precious baby suddenly and unexpectedly. Whether it is categorized as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), SUID (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death) or SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy), the outcome and horribleness of it all is the same, and your baby is gone.
So, why the new terms? They are an attempt by researchers and educators to separate preventable deaths from those we don’t yet know how to prevent.
SIDS, a term most of us are familiar with, has been around (as a term) for decades and as a reality since before Biblical times. It is a diagnosis by exclusion or, in other words, there is no way to tell how the baby died. Up until 1992, when the Back to Sleep (BTS) campaign went into full swing and more and more babies were put to sleep on their backs, over 4500 babies were dying suddenly and unexpectedly each year…and for no apparent reason.
Fortunately, the BTS campaign started to show almost immediate results in the number of SIDS cases being reported and SIDS rates dropped for nearly a decade, eventually leveling off at roughly 2,000 deaths per year (or 0.50 per 1,000 births).
In the late ‘90’s it was observed, however, that overall infant mortality wasn’t decreasing at the same rate as SIDS and there was talk of a “reclassification” of infant deaths vs. a real decline in actual deaths.
What has since been learned is that there has, in fact, been a significant shift in the “diagnosis” of cause of death into the categories of SUDI and SUID (SUID is the official term used by the American Academy of Pediatrics). In fact, sleep-related SUID deaths now equal SIDS deaths at roughly 2,000 per year.
The AAP defines SUID as:
“SUIDs can be attributed to suffocation, asphyxia, entrapment, infection, ingestions, metabolic diseases, arrhythmia-associated cardiac channelopathies, and trauma (accidental or nonaccidental).”
What separates SIDS and SUID deaths is primarily how the coroner or medical examiner evaluates the death scene investigation. If unsafe sleep conditions are found such as-
and the baby is found in a position where these dangerous conditions could have affected their breathing, the diagnosis is customarily SUID. In earlier years, those same circumstances would have yielded a diagnosis of SIDS, thus the shift in diagnosis.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) says that nothing has been shown to prevent SIDS and, by definition, nothing ever will (hard to prevent something you don’t know the cause of)- but, as we learn more about those babies that suddenly die and understand the causes for those deaths we can whittle away at that frightening term- SIDS- and take steps to prevent our babies from falling into these new, but equally tragic categories.
The hope in all of this hard news is that many, many of these deaths are preventable thru simple measures that we all can take, such as-
Do what you can, within your control, to create the safest possible environment for your baby and it is highly unlikely that they will fall into any of these dreaded categories. Realize, too, that your baby is going to grow up faster than you ever thought imaginable, so take the time to enjoy and appreciate them each and every day!