New Study Points To Potential Cause Of SIDS

Researchers have identified a biomarker that could explain why some babies die of SIDS – but more research is needed.

Newborn baby asleep on its back on a white blanket

When an Australian study on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was released in May 2022, the internet went wild with claims that the cause of SIDS had been identified and there would soon be a screening test to prevent it. Media outlets around the world touted it as a “breakthrough” and a “miracle” that would eliminate this devastating cause of death in babies.


The study, published in eBioMedicine, found that the activity of an enzyme called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) was lower in children who died of SIDS than in living infants and babies who died of other causes. Because BChE plays an important role in the brain’s arousal pathway, the researchers concluded that babies who die of SIDS might not have an adequate arousal response when they’re faced with a life-threatening situation such as having difficulty breathing while sleeping.


While the discovery of a biomarker that could indicate babies’ risk of SIDS is a promising finding, the study has important limitations. Some of the babies who died of SIDS had the same enzyme levels as babies who didn’t die, so “normal” ranges of the enzyme are still unclear. And even if further research allows for the development of a screening test for low BChE levels, we still don’t have a treatment for it. 

A glimmer of hope for parents of SIDS

Despite these limitations, the study offers much-needed hope to parents around the world. “While it’s important for parents to understand that further research is needed, we also don’t want to burst their hope bubble,” says Keren Ludski, CEO of SIDS awareness organization Red Nose Australia. “This study has uncovered something important.”


Keren’s personal experience with SIDS led her to dedicate her life to raising awareness and supporting families impacted by SIDS. “I lost my son Ben to SIDS when he was three months old, so I know that it’s one of the most devastating, tragic, gut-wrenching experiences a family can go through and it makes you question everything,” she says.


“When I first read the study, I sat at my desk with tears pouring down my face. It was a really powerful moment where I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, it wasn’t my fault.’ Then, my second thought was, ‘If I’d known that, maybe we could have tested for it.’ It can be a rollercoaster of emotions for SIDS parents, so we encourage them to call our 24/7 support line or a SIDS organization in their area if they feel triggered. But for the most part, this study offers hope to parents and I can’t wait to see what the next stage of research uncovers.”

Safe sleep recommendations still stand

Since the release of the study, several pediatric specialists have spoken out to warn parents that safe sleep recommendations remain the same because SIDS is likely caused by a complex combination of factors.


The American Academy of Pediatrics’ safe sleeping recommendations include:

  • Always put your baby to sleep on their back rather than on their tummy or side.
  • Use a firm sleep surface.
  • Breastfeed if you can because it’s associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
  • Share a room with your baby (who should sleep on a separate surface) for at least the first six months and ideally the first year of life.
  • Keep loose bedding and soft objects away from your baby’s sleep area.
  • Consider using a pacifier at sleep time because, for yet unknown reasons, it reduces the risk of SIDS.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs during pregnancy and after birth.
  • Avoid overheating and head covering during sleep time.
  • Only use products that are consistent with safe sleep guidelines.

Safe sleep products

These products have all passed The Tot test for quality and safety:

Naturepedic Organic Classic Lightweight 2-Stage Crib & Toddler Mattress

With two-stage dual firmness and an extra-firm edge, this Naturepedic mattress offers a safe sleeping environment that your baby can use all the way through toddlerhood. Its organic and non-toxic materials also protect your little one from harmful chemicals.


Ubabub Nifty Timber 3-in-1 Crib

Ubabub’s stunning three-in-one crib, toddler bed and daybed is more than just a pretty face. It meets ASTM international, AU/NZ and U.S. CPSC safety standards and has fixed sides for optimal structural integrity.


HART + LAND Baby Bamboo Sleep Bag

This breathable, moisture-absorbent and quick-drying bamboo sleep bag will help keep your baby’s body temperature at a safe level and avoid the need for loose blankets that could pose a safety risk.


Design Dua Nap & Pack Bassinet with Organic Insert

You can rest easy knowing that the Design Dua bassinet is made under strict standards and comes with a 100% organic fair trade kapok mattress pad that is tufted for firmness to comply with safe sleep regulations.


Natursutten Butterfly Rounded Pacifier

Pacifiers often get a bad rap, but they’re associated with a reduced risk of SIDS. Natursutten’s rounded pacifiers conform to pacifier safety requirements as determined by European standard EN 1400 and CPSIA and are free from harmful chemicals.