How to have a safe night’s sleep and help prevent SIDS

Learn about sudden infant death syndrome and what you can do to prevent it

SIDS: red heart in empty crib

Do everything you can to prevent sudden infant death syndrome.

SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. There is no single risk factor that appears likely to cause a SIDS death. Instead, several combined risk factors may contribute to a SIDS death.

Most SIDS-related deaths occur between 2 to 4 months of age, with the incidence increasing during cold weather. SIDS is more likely to occur in boys than girls and in African-American and Native American infants.

Most SIDS deaths are associated with sleep (cot death/crib death). Nearly 3,500 U.S. infants die suddenly and unexpectedly each year. SIDS incidences have been reduced with implementation of practices advocated by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Among the risk factors are: smoking, drinking or drug abuse during pregnancy; poor prenatal care during pregnancy; premature birth or low birth weight; mothers younger than 20; secondhand tobacco smoke exposure; previous episodes of apparent life-threatening events; and apnea.

But you can help reduce some risks. Your baby should sleep on a firm, flat surface, cuddled up only in his or her pajamas. That’s all your baby needs. Let’s learn what you can do to keep baby safe.

Clear the clutter

Clear out your baby’s sleep area of blankets, pillows, stuffed toys or bumper pads. 

The risk: Soft and decorative items in a baby’s sleep area increase the risk for suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Your baby isn’t strong or coordinated enough to remove soft items from his or her face.

Not too warm

Use a sleep sack, not a blanket, to keep your baby warm if you are worried about the cold. Dressing baby in one less layer than you have on should keep baby comfortable and not overheated.

The risk:  Studies show that an overheated baby can go into a deep sleep from which he or she is difficult to arouse. Too many clothes or blankets and a higher temperature in the room put a baby at increased risk.

Breastfeed as long as you can

The risk:  Breastfed babies have a lower risk of SIDS.

Back to sleep

Until your baby turns 1, your baby should be placed on his or her back, not their side or stomach.  Every nap, every night, every time.

Firm, flat surface

A crib, bassinet or pack ‘n’ play is safe.  If your baby falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing or infant carrier, move her to a firm sleep surface. Never let your baby sleep on a couch or chair.

The risk:  Infant equipment that is not made for sleeping can put your baby in dangerous positions that restrict airflow.

Share your room, not your bed

Room sharing is recommended, ideally for a year but especially the first six months. Place your baby’s crib, bassinet or pack ‘n’ play close to your bed.

The risk: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room sharing because it can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%, and it is much safer than bed sharing.

Get that air moving

A well-ventilated sleeping area is safer for a baby.

The risk: According to one study, sleeping with a fan lowers the risk of SIDS by 70%.

More prevention tips

  • Receive early and regular prenatal care.
  • Make sure your baby receives all recommended immunizations. Research shows that immunized babies are 50 percent less likely to be a victim of SIDS.
  • Make sure your baby has regular well-baby checkups.
  • If your baby has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), follow your doctor’s guidelines on feeding and sleep positions.
  • Never sleep with your baby or allow other children to sleep with baby.
  • Give your baby plenty of interactive tummy playtime.
  • When you travel with your baby, be sure to plan a safe place for him/her to sleep.
  • Contact hotels regarding the availability of a safe crib for a short overnight trip.
  • If you take your baby to day care or leave him with a baby sitter, provide a copy of this list to them. Make sure they follow all these recommendations.

These simple changes can dramatically lower your baby’s risk for SIDS. Communicate these to any caregivers of your child as well.  For more information, see the SAFE to SLEEP educational website.

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FAQs: Understanding SIDS safety

Why is it important to choose a safe place for your baby to sleep?

Choosing a safe space for a baby to sleep helps to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). While the cause for SIDS is not fully known, reducing environment factors can help reduce the risk. When possible, always have your baby sleep on the flat surface of a crib. If a baby falls asleep in a swing or a car seat, make sure to transfer the child to a crib.

Where is it appropriate for your baby to sleep safely?

The best place for a baby to sleep safely is in a crib or a bed on a flat surface. Cribs should be pretty bare — no blankets, bumpers or stuffed animals. The bed should be firm and should only have a fitted sheet on it. If parents are concerned a baby might become too cold, use a sleep sack instead of a blanket.

What is the safest way to put your baby to bed?

Babies should always be placed on their back to sleep. Place them on their back to sleep even after they become mobile and are able to roll over on their own.

Posted In Children's, Health Information, Parenting, Pregnancy, Sleep Medicine, Specialty Care

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