From Mainichi Shimbun, May 18, 1997, Morning Edition

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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
MHW Initiates Interview Survey in Fall
Widest Possible Dissemination of Information Sought

Babies die suddenly in their sleep from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Even though it is the leading cause of death of infants from 7 days to one year of age, not many people are familiar with ways of lessening the risk of its occurrence. Recently, a movement is afoot among parents who have lost their children and some childcare practitioners to inform as many people as possible of this medical disorder. The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) will conduct this fall a nationwide interview survey on sudden deaths of infants including SIDS.  (Fumie Imai, staff reporter)


The SIDS Families Association Japan (Stephanie Fukui, president), organized by the parents of deceased infants, holds comfort and support meetings for their members and conducts a nationwide campaign for the prevention of SIDS.

The association has prepared 30,000 copies of its booklet When You Encounter SIDS which contains general information on SIDS and specialized guidelines for emergency room staff, health practitioners, ambulance technicians, childcare practitioners, and police officers. It has prepared 10,000 copies of a brochure for child-raising parents outlining 5 appeals including “Raise Your Babies on Their Backs,” which it distributes to hospitals and other institutions. The association also edited the book I Want to Hold You One More Time, a collection of parents’ experiences, which was published by Medicus Shuppan (Distribution handled by Mothers’ and Children’s Health and Welfare Association, Phone: 03-3499-3111.)

The Association for Studying Prone Sleeping is organized by over 20 families who lost their children in hospitals and at childcare facilities, twelve of whom are now involved in litigation. In almost all cases, the defendants deny liability by arguing that the deaths were from SIDS. “SIDS is used as an absolution for faulty childcare management.” says Fukumi Kushige speaking for the association. She says that the association tries to educate the public on the danger of the prone sleeping position in terms of both suffocation and SIDS. In August, a Plaintiffs’ Association will be formed for exchanging information on the court cases. (Phone: 0423-74-3662, Inoue’s residence)


In April 1995, an infant of four months died from SIDS at Mommy Home Childcare Service, a day nursery in Hiroshima City. Mrs. Noriko Nakamura (37), owner-operator of the nursery, has prepared helpful material on the prevention and early detection of SIDS. Based on her experience, she appeals to other childcare practitioners not to put down babies to sleep face down, and recommends that they check their breathing and touch their bodies every 10 minutes.

Mrs. Nakamura also took it upon herself to republish a 1982 booklet 130 Little Cries which reported the results of detailed investigations of fatalities, which had occurred in childcare facilities across the country, conducted by a group organized largely by parents of deceased infants. Realizing that the booklet contains a great deal of information which is relevant to the present conditions of the childcare system, she had 1,500 copies of the book printed, which she will send to related organization including Childcare sections of municipalities. In addition to providing information on SIDS by distributing books and brochures, Mrs. Nakamura also gives counsel on SIDS matters.

Ministry of Health and Welfare

This fall, MHW will conduct a nationwide study of cases of accidental deaths and SIDS that occured at childcare facilities. Director Kitai of MHW’s Child and Maternal Welfare Division says “With the cooperation of approximately 4,300 emergency hospitals where the babies were first brought to as well as the families of deceased children, we seek to obtain detailed information on the conditions that existed before and after the occurrence of the fatalities.”

Questions raised in the study will include cigarette smoking during pregnancy and after birth, and whether the baby was breast-fed. “If the study finds that many deaths occurred while babies slept face down, we will include it as a risk factor in the information we will provide to the public.” says Director Kitai.

Professor Hiroshi Nishida of Tokyo Women’s Medical College, member of MHW’s SIDS research team, states: “The number of SIDS occurrences can be reduced by paying closer attention to an infant’s body and its surroundings. Hospitals and childcare facilities, therefore, cannot avoid their responsibility by claiming that the deaths are caused by SIDS. Research data in many countries clearly indicate that prone sleeping is one of the SIDS risk factors. Prone positioning, however, is fine when the baby is awake and playing.”

Figure: Results of Survey on Causes of Death in Kanagawa Prefecture Conducted by SIDS Research Team during 1993-96   (Infants aged 7 days through 2 years)

Causes of Death Number of Deaths
Congenital heart diseases 137
SIDS (including suspected cases) 135
Congenital deformity   70
Perinatal anomalies   64
Infections   42
Chromosome anomalies   30
Accidents   29
Cancer   14
Intracranial hemorrhage    4
Others   48

SIDS: Believed to be caused by a delayed arousal reaction to the non-breathing state during an infant’s sleep. Its relationship with prone sleeping has not been clearly established, but some researchers suggest that deeper sleep may lessen arousal reaction. SIDS is the leading cause of death of infants under one year of age. In 1995, 573 infants under two years died of SIDS in Japan.

This article is translated into English by Mommy Home Childcare Service and reproduced here with permission of Komei Shimbun. Mommy Home Childcare Service is solely responsible for the accuracy of translation. All acts of copyright infringement including reproduction, translation, transmission, republication, and distribution of this material without written permission of Komei Shimbun, the copyright holder, are prohibited.

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