FAQ’s Concerning SIDS/Crib Death

What is SIDS/Crib Death?

SIDS/crib death is the most common cause of infant death in many western countries. In most cases the baby has been put down to sleep in his or her crib and later found lifeless, with no sign of illness or physical struggle. SIDS/crib death can also occur in other situations which parallel “crib situations” or which are sleeping environments, for example: prams, strollers, car seats, play mats, sofas, and adults’ and children’s beds.

What is the SIDS/Crib Death risk age?

If a baby was born at full term, with a normal birth weight, and does not experience any significant health problems, the risk age can be regarded as over after thirteen months. If any of those situations does not apply (for example, if the baby was premature), the risk age can extend out to fifteen months.

What is the cause of SIDS/Crib Death?

SIDS/crib death is caused by highly toxic nerve gases which can be generated from mattresses and other bedding used in babies’ cribs (and other sleeping environments). The gases are generated by action of common household fungi on compounds containing phosphorus, arsenic and antimony present in the mattress or bedding.

How can SIDS/Crib Death be prevented?

By preventing exposure of the baby to the gases. This is done by wrapping the baby’s mattress in accordance with a specified protocol (to separate the baby from gas generation in the mattress) and using strictly specified bedding (so that the gases cannot be generated on top of the wrapped mattress). See our Bedding Instructions.

Why do SIDS/Crib Death babies show no symptoms?

The toxic gases which cause SIDS/crib death are anticholinesterase agents. They depress the baby’s central nervous system, resulting in cessation of the heart and lung functions. Babies who die of SIDS/crib death are not “ill” in the medical sense; they are poisoned by environmental gaseous poisoning.

What is a "near miss"?

A “near miss” occurs where a baby has been seriously affected by the toxic gas/es which cause SIDS/crib death but is still alive. The baby’s heart and lung functions may have stopped. “Near miss” babies often have blue lips (indicating shortage of air). If at this stage the baby is picked up and air is blown onto his or her face, the baby may start breathing again. If a partly poisoned baby is moved into fresh air and can be made to breathe, the baby usually survives.

Why are recently vaccinated babies and babies with infections at higher risk of SIDS/Crib Death?

The fever, and increased body heat which results from an infection and which typically follows vaccination results in increased temperature in the baby’s crib. A rise in temperature of 3 degrees C (5.5 degrees F) in the crib can result in a tenfold increase in the rate of gas generation.

Why does the risk of Crib Death/SIDS rise from one baby in a family to the next?

Many parents re-use crib mattresses from one baby to the next. If a mattress contains phosphorus, arsenic or antimony and certain household fungi have become established in the mattress during previous use by another baby, generation of toxic gas commences sooner and in a greater volume when the mattress is re-used for the next baby.

Why do babies of solo parents have a very high SIDS/Crib Death rate?

Solo parents are more likely to sleep their babies on secondhand mattresses; and the risk of crib death increases as a mattress is re-used from one baby to the next.

Why does overheating increase SIDS/Crib Death risk?

The extra warmth in the baby’s crib causes the fungus to increase gas generation.

Why do more SIDS Deaths/Crib Deaths occur in winter than in summer?

During winter babies frequently use more bedding and clothing, resulting in a greater risk of overheating in the crib and thus a greater risk of gas generation.

Why does face-up sleeping reduce the risk of SIDS/Crib Death?

The gases which cause SIDS/crib death (phosphines, arsines and stibines) are all more dense than air. They diffuse away from a baby’s mattress towards the floor, with the result that a baby sleeping face-up is less likely to ingest them.

Why does bedsharing between adults and babies pose a SIDS/Crib Death risk?

Adults’ mattresses frequently contain the same chemicals and fungi as babies’ mattresses, and therefore can generate the same toxic gases. For physiological reasons adults are not put at risk by this gas generation in beds, but a bedsharing baby can die within a short period of time.

Why do pacifiers (dummies) appear to reduce SIDS/Crib Death risk?

Mothers who wish to use a pacifier very often sleep the baby face-up so that the pacifier stays in place. And face-up sleeping reduces the risk of crib death, because the gases which cause crib death are more dense than air and a baby sleeping face-up is less likely to ingest them. So it is not the pacifier which reduces SIDS risk, but rather the statistical likelihood that the baby using the pacifier will be sleeping face-up.

How does the toxic gas theory explain SIDS Deaths/Crib Deaths which occur in adults' arms?

If a baby has been lying in a crib or on some surface where he or she has been exposed to a lethal dose of toxic gas, and as a result the mechanism of death is already occurring when the baby is picked up, the baby can die while being held in the adult’s arms. Also, crib death can occur in an adult’s arms if a baby is picked up and held in an item of bedding (e.g. a blanket or duvet) which is generating toxic gas.

Why do more baby boys than baby girls die of SIDS/Crib Death?

Minor changes in temperature in the crib cause a marked increase in the rate of toxic gas generation. Scottish research has shown that a high thermal score (higher crib temperature) is associated with increased crib death risk; and that a high thermal score poses greater SIDS risk to boys than to girls.

Is SIDS/Crib Death caused by babies re-breathing their exhaled carbon dioxide?

No. All babies exhale a similar amount of carbon dioxide, regardless of whether they are first, second, third or later babies in a family. Accordingly, the statistical finding that the crib death rate rises from one sibling in a family to the next disproves the carbon dioxide theory for the cause of SIDS.

Why aren't there many SIDS Deaths/Crib Deaths among babies less than one month old?

A significant number of babies sleep on new mattresses, and it takes around one month for fungi capable of gas generation to become established in a mattress. However, a baby less than one month old can die of crib death if he or she is placed on a mattress which has recently been used by another baby and is already capable of generating toxic gas.

Why do relatively few SIDS Deaths/Crib Deaths occur among babies over six months old?

An older baby is more able to respond physically to the initial distress which is caused by the exposure to the toxic gases. An older baby experiencing this distress (e.g. the initial headache which occurs) can take action by flailing around in the crib, throwing off bedding, or sitting or standing up in the crib. This attracts the attention of adults. It also disperses gases from around the baby; or physically removes the baby from the gases (if the baby sits or stands up in the crib), since these gases are more dense than air.

Why is the SIDS/Crib Death rate higher for twins than for singleton babies?

First, if the twins are not the mother’s first pregnancy, often the mother already has a crib mattress. Secondly, many twins sleep in the same crib when they are very young babies, but at some point while still within the crib death risk age are separated so that they are sleeping in separate cribs. Both of these situations require a second mattress to be obtained. As a consequence, it often occurs that one twin sleeps on a previously used mattress, while the other twin sleeps on a new mattress. This has the result that the SIDS rate among twins is significantly higher than among singleton babies; also it is statistically much more likely that one twin will die of SIDS than the other. The twin sleeping on the re-used mattress is at around double the crib death risk of the twin sleeping on the new mattress.

Given that millions of unwrapped mattresses contain phosphorus, arsenic or antimony; P, As or Sb, respectively; why aren’t there more SIDS Deaths/Crib Deaths?

In order for SIDS/crib death to occur, the following circumstances must co-exist in the baby’s crib:

  1. The mattress (or other bedding) beneath the baby must contain phosphorus, arsenic or antimony.
  2. The condition of the mattress or bedding must support fungal growth (for example, be damp with sweat or contaminated with urine).
  3. Fungi capable of generating gases from phosphorus, arsenic and antimony must be growing in the mattress or bedding.
  4. The fungi must be sufficiently active to produce a lethal dose of the gases.
  5. The baby must ingest a lethal dose (for example, because the baby is sleeping face down, or because there is insufficient ventilation around the baby to disperse the gases).

It is uncommon for all these circumstances to co-exist in a baby’s crib. Many babies are exposed to sub-lethal doses of toxic gas in their cribs, and no immediate harm results. Occasionally, however, all the above circumstances do co-exist and a SIDS death/crib death ensues.

» Home »» FAQ’s Concerning SIDS – Crib Death