Early neonatal sudden death syndrome (SIDS) is a rare but well known disease entity. Between January 1975 and December 1991, 29 full-term newborn infants delivered in our maternity unit and, considered healthy at birth, suffered early SIDS (n = 15) or early apparent life threatening events (ALTE) (n = 14). Data from the whole population of live full-term infants born in our hospital during the past five years have been used as a reference (n = 27,841). The general rate of early SIDS was 0.14 per 1000 (15/107,263). Combining early ALTE cases, the overall rate was 0.27 per 1000 (29/107,263). A postmortem examination was performed for all infants who died (20/29): no cause of death could be determined, and we did not observe a single case with evident sequelae. There were 9 deaths (31%) within the first hour after delivery and 12 deaths occurred in the early morning hours (04:00-08:00; RR = 3.76; p = 0.0008). The lowest incidence was in the spring (RR = 0.21; p = 0.03). There was a tendency for an increased incidence during the weekend and the summer. No influence of sex, maternal age, gestational age, infant weight presentation, delivery, anesthesia or presence of meconium-stained fluid was found. In our opinion, SIDS can take place even during the first hour of life and it is not possible to predict when a baby might be affected. Pediatrically trained caregivers, close observation by the mother during the first few days and resuscitation facilities in maternity wards may be the most important preventive measures to reduce the risk of early SIDS and the consequences of ALTE in the early newborn period.