Major breakthrough: New research may have discovered what causes SIDS

Share this article

****Trigger Warning: This content may cause some readers distress***

For years, experts have been working tirelessly to determine what exactly causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, a recent study may have led researchers one step closer to understanding the underlying cause of SIDS.

As this condition tragically claims the lives of between 130-150 babies a year in Australia, this breakthrough is HUGE news.


Major breakthrough: New research may have discovered what causes SIDS

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University tested the blood of 61 infants whose death had been attributed to SIDS, and found that more than 30 per cent of these babies whose cause of death was unclear had elevated levels of serotonin.

Serotonin is a chemical in the brain which is believed to regulate anxiety, happiness and mood.

newborn asleep

“What we’ve found when we looked at SIDS deaths was a subset that had elevated levels of serotonin in the serum,” says Dr. Robin Haynes, principal pathology associate at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University researcher, in the study’s report.

“So this is the first indication that a problem with serotonin might be contributing to SIDS.

“Currently there is no good, consistent marker that either shows a SIDS death at autopsy, or predicts a SIDS risk in infants.”

Meanwhile, Karen Waters – who is a sleep physician and University of Sydney researcher, told ABC News that these findings are a major breakthrough.

newborn sleep safe

“It’s quite exciting. Obviously there’s more to be done, and we have to look and see in a whole group of babies what the levels are like and found out how many have these high levels,” she says.

“But if we can find a marker that would tell us which babies are at risk, then it gives us the possibility of intervening before they die.”

Experts say more research into what causes SIDS needs to be done.

Reducing the risk of SIDS

SIDS is a rare condition and most deaths occur during the first three months of a baby’s life.

Red Nose, a charity that aims to eradicate SIDSsuggest sharing a sleep area with a baby can increase the risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), which includes SIDS and fatal sleep accidents.

Here are its guidelines for parents:

  • Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side.
  • Sleep baby with head and face uncovered.
  • Keep baby smoke free before birth and after.
  • Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day.
  • Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult care-giver for the first six to twelve months.
  • Breastfeed baby.
  • Choose a safe cot which meets Australian Standard AS2172.
  • Ensure a safe mattress which is firm, clean, flat and right size for cot.
  • Tuck blankets in firmly or use a safe baby sleeping bag.
  • Do not use a pillow, cot bumper, lamb’s wool, soft toy or doona in the cot day or night.

If you want more information on SIDS, you can read more here. For support, the SIDS Bereavement Support Services can be accessed by calling 1300 308 307.

Make sure you read our article on why sharing a room, but not a bed, with your baby can cut the risk of SIDS by 50 per cent.

For more new mum advice – join The Healthy Mummy’s New Mum Support Group

Becoming a mum – especially of the first time – can be an exciting, daunting, confusing and interesting experience. You certainly step into a whole new world – that often feels a whole lot unfamiliar.

Breastfeeding, formula, dummies, cots, mastitis, baby health and development – there are so many things to know and understand.

If you are a new mum wanting to connect with other new mums, ask questions and share your own experiences – you should join The Healthy Mummy’s New Mum’s Facebook Private Support Group.

healthy mummy community image

Share this article