Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is diagnosed only after an infant’s death cannot be explained following a thorough investigation.

“It’s almost like a rule-out so there has to be something else that it can’t be,” said Sue O’Brien, of Fort Bragg’s New Parent Support Program. “If it’s undetermined, it’s not going to come up as a SIDS.”

Steps that parents and caregivers can take to prevent SIDS include not using positioners such as stuffed animals, pillows and comforters in a crib; placing a baby at the foot of the crib; and not placing a baby’s blanket above the armpits, explained Heather Beavers, a clinical staff nurse in the pediatric unit, Womack Army Medical Center.

Other measures include not co-sleeping or placing the infant in the same bed as parents; using a firm sleep surface; placing the baby to sleep on its back and not exposing infants to tobacco smoke.

In 1994, the “Back to Sleep” campaign was initiated under leadership of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Prior to that, parents had been advised to place infants on their tummies. Today, tummy time is recommended only when a baby is supervised and as a means of strengthening the infant’s neck and upper back muscles.

According to the Pediatrics Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in 2006 (the latest year for which data are available), 2,327 infants died from SIDS, which accounts for it being the third-leading cause of infant mortality and the leading cause of mortality for infants 28 days to 1-year old.

Typically Fort Bragg has one SIDS death per year, O’Brien said.

WAMC delivers about 3,300 babies a year, said Mary Carson, a clinical nurse specialist. Safe Sleep is emphasized on a daily basis for each infant.

Home visits can be conducted through the NPSP to give parents information about parenting. Offered through the Army Community Service, Family Advocacy Program, the program is run by professional social workers and nurses to improve parental confidence.

But, what about when the unthinkable happens?

If a Family experiences the loss of a child, other support services are the AGAPE Support Group which meets the fourth Tuesdays of the month at the Watters Center; and Compassionate Friends, offered through the Cape Fear Valley Health System, Carson said.

For more information about SIDS, or about parenting and caring for an infant, visit www.fortbraggmwr.com/acs/new-parent-support/ or www.militaryonesource.com.

Though information about safe sleep habits for infants has changed from placing infants on their tummies to sleep, to placing them on their backs, health care professionals stress the best care.

“One baby lost to SIDS is too many,” said

Beavers.