SIDS deaths are always horrendous to read about as sleep practices continue to be the subject of debate among parents. But as more and more instances of unsafe sleeping habits are uncovered by specialists and investigators, the term is being used less frequently to describe cases of infants dying in their sleep. So does that mean that SIDS is a legitimate cause of death?

NPR reports:

In almost all of the cases,

[Pat]

Tackitt

[a pediatric mortality investigator]

says, she found that the baby was in an unsafe sleep environment. The baby may have been sleeping face down, may have been covered by a blanket or pillow, or may have gotten lodged between sofa cushions. In some cases, the baby was sleeping with a parent who rolled on top of the infant in the night.

Tackitt says these are all signs of accidental suffocation, not SIDS.

Tackitt, who has reportedly been to the scene of over 500 infant deaths, told NPR that “the vast majority of these are preventable deaths. There’s been very, very few that we’ve seen that could not be prevented.” NPR also points out that SIDS is often diagnosed after a series of other possible causes of death have been ruled out. Although a SIDS diagnosis can be somewhat comforting to parents considering the lack of direct blame, the lost initiative to educate parents on safe sleeping practices for infants can ultimately do more harm than good.