WASHINGTON, DC—According to a study released Monday by the National Pediatric Association, a link exists between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the mysterious condition that results in the unexplained death of 1 in 500 U.S. infants each year, and bad parents who could have done something.
After conducting interviews with some 1,500 parents of SIDS victims, researchers discovered a connection between the tragic death of a seemingly healthy baby and the terrible people who had completely failed in their role as parents and caregivers.
"For years, the medical community did not know what causes SIDS, as no single factor appeared to be common to all cases," National Pediatric Association director Dr. Lucille Reese said. "But we have finally isolated a unique trait shared by all SIDS victims known as malis parentibus, or 'bad parents.' After all, these parents must have done something wrong. Why else would this have happened?"
The three-year study found that, not only could parents of SIDS victims have prevented the death of their children by not being such incompetent caregivers, they also failed to love their children enough in the weeks or months leading up to the infant's death.
"Three days before Derek left us I swore at him," said a tearful Helene Fordice of Butte, MT, who lost her son to SIDS Feb. 11. "My horrible words, 'Sweetie, for God's sake, hold still a second so mommy can change you,' will haunt me for the rest of my life."
Fordice, one of the many parents who participated in the study, also reported that she had failed to let Derek know how important he was to her while she still had the chance.
"If I'd been a better mother, Derek would be alive today," Fordice said.
According to the study, the bad parenting that causes SIDS can take on many forms, including breastfeeding incorrectly, leaving the child unsupervised for 35 seconds, holding the baby too often or not enough, and failing to have the child baptized.
SIDS deaths have historically been difficult to accept by those in the medical profession due to the extremely young age of the victim and the many unanswered questions surrounding the syndrome. Despite the fact that SIDS is the single leading killer of infants, doctors have had little definite information to offer the public—until now.
"We've spent years searching for the cause of SIDS, examining such factors as maternal health and age, prenatal care, birth procedure and immunization history," said Dr. Ravi Harmuti, co-chair of the study. "But we'd never been able to tie all SIDS cases together until we pinpointed the unbelievable incompetence of the parents involved."
"Finally, we'll be able to give parents an explanation for the SIDS-related death of their child," said Dr. Milton Kessel, Director of Pediatric Medicine at Boston Lutheran Hospital. "From now on, whenever a bewildered, hysterical parent asks what happened, we can end their confusion and let them know that they are entirely to blame."
The National Pediatric Association findings are the result of groundbreaking new interview-based research methods. Instead of examining tissue samples, autopsy results and specific environmental factors, the study focused on testimonials given by grief-stricken parents who were asked to honestly assess how much they really wanted a child, anyway.
As a result of the study, the National Pediatric Association is embarking on a nationwide SIDS public-awareness program. It is hoped that the new "SIDS: It's All Your Fault" campaign will result in a sharp overall reduction in SIDS-related fatalities.
"Now that we know that bad parenting is the culprit, no infant need die of SIDS again," Reese said. "Except, of course, in those instances in which the SIDS death is God's way of punishing a parent for some past sin."