Darci and Robert Torres still have difficulty talking about the 2007 death of their 3-month-old daughter, Alia. They fed her, put her down to sleep, and a half hour later, she was unresponsive in her bassinet.
“It’s hard to go back there — it’s so painful,” said Darci, a 42-year old mother of four from Stockton, California. “How does a perfectly healthy baby fall asleep and not wake up?”
The Torreses were experienced parents and educated about sudden infant death syndrome: Alia slept on her back, the crib was free from blankets that might obstruct her breathing, and neither smoked.
But now, one scientist has a bold, new theory for why an estimated 3,500 babies a year succumb to SIDS, a mysterious and traumatic event that haunts parents for decades — inner ear dysfunction.
Dr. Daniel Rubens, an anesthesiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, had a hunch: If the part of the ear that controls balance is damaged, babies may be unable to reposition themselves when their breathing is compromised.
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