DEAR ABBY: Last November, my husband and I went to awaken our 3 1/2-month-old son, only to find him dead in his crib! The cause: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), more commonly known as "crib death." There are no symptoms.
Almost as devastating as the loss of our son was the confusion and frustration that followed. Because so little is known about SIDS, parents are often left to face cruel questions from well-meaning but unenlightened friends and family. It is difficult to understand how a child who appears to be perfectly healthy and normal could die so suddenly for no apparent reason. It can lead to false accusations and unnecessary guilt for people who have already suffered enough.Abby, will you please print the following facts to enlighten your readers:
1. SIDS is the sudden and unexpected death of an apparently healthy infant; the cause remains unexplained, even after an autopsy.
2. SIDS is the No. 1 cause of death among infants between the ages of 1 week and 1 year, although it is most likely to occur between the ages of 2 and 4 months.
3. An average of 7,000 babies die of SIDS every year.
4. SIDS is NOT caused by suffocation, aspiration or regurgitation. Most SIDS victims appear to be healthy before death, although a few may show symptoms of a slight cold shortly before death.
5. SIDS is NOT caused by child abuse or an immunization; it's neither contagious nor hereditary; and it occurs in families of all social and economic levels.
6. SIDS cannot be predicted or prevented. While the chilling question, "Why did your baby die?" still cannot be answered, SIDS experts today believe that some subtle abnormality in infant development occurring in the fetal stages predisposes some babies to SIDS. Our only hope in learning more about this tragic death lies in research.
Parents who experience this tragedy have special needs. The best advice I can offer to their families and friends is: DON'T say, "You'll have more children." DON'T set limits on how long the parents should grieve. And, above all, DON'T try to substitute other children in the family to "replace" the one they've lost. Each child is irreplaceable.
The best advice I can offer parents is: Please become better educated about SIDS. Had I known more about it, I wouldn't have tortured myself with guilt and blame for my baby's death. Sign me . . . MISSING MY BABY IN ASHLAND, KY.
DEAR MISSING: Please accept my condolences on the loss of your beloved son. Your letter is both helpful and informative, and I'm printing it to alert other parents, their friends and families.
Those who are interested in learning more about SIDS can obtain a free booklet titled "Facts About SIDS." Send your name and address to: The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Alliance, 10500 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 420, Columbia, Md. 21044. The toll-free National SIDS hotline number is (800) 221-7437.
October is National SIDS Awareness Month. And since the only hope for learning more about this tragic problem lies in research, voluntary contributions are gratefully accepted.