HomeHealth Topics A to ZWays To Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
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Ways To Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

A parent and caregiver's guide to the safest sleeping habits for infants.
By Dr. Michael Boettcher

About 3,500 US infants die suddenly and unexpectedly each year. We often refer to these deaths as Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID). Of those infants, about 1500 are due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), making it the leading cause of death in infants from 1 to 12 months of age. Since 1990 the rate of SIDS has decreased by approximately 70%.

The actual cause of SIDS is unknown, however, through research we have been able to identify certain activities that can increase or decrease the risk of SIDS in infants. Unfortunately, there is no sure way to prevent SIDS, but parents and caregivers can take the following steps to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death:

  • Always place a baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night, to reduce the risk of SIDS. The back sleep position is the safest position for all babies, including preterm babies. Keep in mind that every sleep time counts.
  • When your baby starts to roll over, you do not need to turn them over. The important thing is to start the night on the back.
  • Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib covered by a fitted sheet.
  • Never place baby to sleep on soft surfaces, such as on a couch, pillows, quilts, sheepskins, or blankets.
  • Your baby should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair alone, with you, or with anyone else. If you bring baby into your bed to feed, make sure to put him or her back in a safety-approved crib, bassinet, or portable play area, when you are finished.
  • Bed sharing with infants—even when mothers do not smoke—is a risk factor for SIDS.
  • The safest alternative to bed sharing may be room sharing, a situation in which the infant shares a room with the parents, but has his or her own crib, bassinet, or sleep space. Room sharing reduces the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.
  • Keep soft objects, toys, crib bumpers, and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area. Don’t use pillows, blankets, quilts, sheepskins, or crib bumpers anywhere in your baby’s sleep area.
  • To reduce the risk of SIDS, do not smoke during pregnancy, and do not smoke or allow smoking around your baby.
  • To reduce the risk of SIDS, do not drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs during pregnancy or after the baby is born.
  • Parents and caregivers should not overdress babies and should keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature. In general, if the room temperature is comfortable for an adult, then it is appropriate for a baby.
  • Follow health care provider guidance on your baby’s vaccines and regular health checkups.
  • Avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. These wedges, positioners, and other products have not been tested for safety or effectiveness.
  • Do not use home heart or breathing monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you have questions about using these monitors for other health conditions, talk with your baby’s health care provider.
  • Give your baby plenty of Tummy Time while awake and when someone is watching. Supervised Tummy Time helps your baby’s neck, shoulder, and arm muscles get stronger. It also helps to prevent flat spots on the back of your baby’s head.

Make sure everyone who cares for your baby knows the ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.

Remember: Babies sleep safest on their backs, and every sleep time counts!

Help family members, babysitters, daycare workers— EVERYONE—reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS and ensure a safe sleep area for your baby. Share these safe sleep messages with everyone who cares for your baby or for any baby younger than 1 year of age.

Topics and Subtopics: Children's Health, Pregnancy & Infant Care

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