Until 1959, whenever a presumably healthy baby died in its bed for no apparent reason, forensic pathologists called it "crib death" or "cot death." These terms described where, not how, the baby died, and didn't sound very scientific. But "sudden infant death syndrome," a purely descriptive term coined by a pediatrician named J. Bruce Beckwith, sounded more technical and more ominous.
By describing the suddenness of the death instead of the place where it occurred, the term Sudden Infant Death Syndrome carries an implication of violence and foul play. While breaking new ground rhetorically, the introduction of the letters SIDS into the vocabulary of forensic pathology and criminal investigation added nothing but confusion. The time would come when SIDS, in essence, meant suspicious infant death syndrome, a designation that sounds more than vaguely criminal.