Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), more commonly known as cot death, is the most tragic of occurrences. Approximately three in 100,000 children each year will be found lifeless for no apparent reason. These deaths most commonly occur in the winter months and usually between the ages of two and four months.

There are several factors associated with cot death that are accepted throughout the orthodox world and others that are suggested through alternative sources.

Orthodox associations

Smoking. The association is startling and it is the most important of all known factors. Maternal smoking during or after pregnancy and those smoking around a pregnant mother or baby may cause up to two-thirds of cot deaths.

Infants sleeping face down in cots. This may be made worse by certain fire-retarding materials, although the suggestion has not been substantiated.

Infections, particularly chest infections, whether they are mild or serious.

Genetic predisposition creating either a fault in the part of the brain that tells the body to breathe or enzyme deficiencies that prevent the availability of energy from food.

Overheating or exposure to cold.

Excessive caffeine intake during pregnancy.

Alternative possibilities

Medicines such as those used in treating colic or decongestants.

Antibiotics when used to treat infections.

Food allergy or intolerance.

Recent vaccination.

Prevention is the key and as many safeguards as possible should be encouraged.


Place an apnoea blanket under the child. These are easily obtainable, although expensive, and are special blankets that register the child’s movement. If the child stops breathing an alarm sound will go off, which may awaken the child and will alert the parents, provided that an inter-room sounder is utilized if the parents or child’s guardian are out of earshot.

Cover all cot mattresses with a plastic sheet.

Ensure an even temperature with fresh air in the child’s room.

Ensure that the child sleeps on his/her back. Even children sleeping on their side have a higher incidence of SIDS.

Clothing and bedding must be well-fitting because anything loose may slip over the baby’s head. Infants should not use duvets until after one year old. Bedding should be securely tucked in.

For this more than any other condition -absolutely no smoking through pregnancy, around the child or even in the same house as an infant.

Avoid caffeine during pregnancy.

Pay special attention to any child on orthodox medication. If the apnoea blanket/alarm system is not utilized, a child with an infection may be best preserved from SIDS by sleeping in the same bed as the parents.

If this tragedy has occurred within your family or circle of friends it may be worth considering the Hindu philosophy that we are reincarnated as part of a long cycle of attainment, understanding and teaching. A spirit that enters the body of a child who does not live for long is considered to be a very advanced soul who only needed a short incarnation and was principally here to teach sadness and loss to those around. Such a visitation is considered a blessing and although this cannot touch the pain created by such a tragedy, I have found that it may give some meaning to the pain and sorrow.