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10 Steps to Help Prevent SIDS

Parents who know about SIDS may think of it as their worst nightmare. SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and is also known in places around the world as Cot Death.

SIDS is when a baby under 12 months dies in their sleep, with no warning or reason. As SIDS can be a mystery, there is no cure. It is not a disease but a complex prognosis of which parents can help prevent by following some guidelines to make baby’s sleep state more safe and comfortable.

Although there is no 100% way to prevent SIDS, there is a lot you can do lower your baby’s risk. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its safe sleep recommendations in 1992 and launched its “Back to Sleep” campaign in 1994, the SIDS rate has dropped more than 60%. In 2015, the CDC noted 39.4 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 154.5 deaths in 1990.

Put a Sleeping Baby on His Back

Your baby’s risk of SIDS is much higher any time he sleeps on his side or stomach. (A baby placed on his side can roll over on his stomach.) These positions put your baby’s face in the mattress or sleeping area, which can smother him.

So, every time you put your baby in his bed to sleep — for naps, at night, or any time — lay him down on his back. Don’t let him sleep in a stroller, car seat, baby seat or swing for a prolonged period of time. Get him out and lay him on a flat surface or bed.

Tell anyone who takes care of your baby how essential it is to lay your sleeping baby on his back each time. That includes grandparents, babysitters and childcare providers, older siblings, and others. They may think one time won’t matter, but it can. When a baby who usually sleeps on his back is suddenly laid on his stomach to sleep, the risk of SIDS is much higher.

If you’re worried your baby might choke while sleeping on his back, don’t be. Choking is very rare, and healthy babies tend to swallow or cough up fluids automatically. If you’re concerned, ask your pediatrician about elevating the head of your baby’s bed.

Once your baby can roll over both ways, which usually happens around 6 months, he may not stay on his back. That’s OK. It’s fine to let him choose his own sleep position once he knows how to roll over.

Firm Bed, No Soft Toys or Bedding

To prevent smothering or suffocation, always lay your baby down to sleep on either a firm mattress or surface in a crib or bassinet. All your baby’s crib needs is the fitted sheet — don’t put blankets, quilts, pillows, sheepskin, stuffed toys, or crib bumpers in your baby’s crib. 

A baby waving its arms around can easily fling up a blanket over its head. The risk here is that because they have no control over their limbs for the first few months of life, they will not know how to take the blanket off their face. Therefore, there is a high chance of suffocation. You do not need blankets in the baby’s crib; the baby will keep warm, cozy, and importantly, safe when sleeping in a baby sleeping sack. Sleeping sacks come with or without armholes and sleeves, and there is no chance that they can be pulled over the head.

Soft toys: the stores are full of them, and it is one of the most popular gifts for a new baby. They are great to cuddle, but to prevent SIDS, it is recommended not to put any soft toys in the baby’s crib until after one year old. The baby can easily dislodge the toy from its position, and they are a high-risk factor when it comes to suffocation, especially if the fibers of the toy are of a synthetic nature. Best to keep the toys for playing, and a bed for sleeping.

Keep Your Sleeping Baby Close, but Not in Your Bed

When a baby sleeps in the same room as mom, studies show it lowers the risk of SIDS. But it’s dangerous for a baby to sleep with another child or an adult in the same bed, in an armchair, and on a couch.

If you bring your baby into your bed for comforting or breastfeeding, be sure to put the baby back in his own cradle, bassinet, or crib when you’re ready to sleep. If you are tired, don’t breastfeed while sitting in a chair or on a couch in case you fall asleep.

Never bring the baby to bed with you when you’re very tired or using medicines that affect your sleep.

Don’t smoke around your baby

This stands for not just when the baby is born, but when you are pregnant as well. Studies have shown that babies who are born to women, who had smoked during their pregnancies, are three times more likely to die from SIDS. Obviously, smoking while pregnant is a huge risk factor, but secondhand smoke for babies also has damaging effects and can lead to the increased chance of SIDS. For the health of your baby in the womb and its developmental growth both in utero and after birth, it is advised not to smoke while pregnant.


Breastfeeding your baby can lower the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%, though experts aren’t sure why. Some think breast milk may protect babies from infections that raise their SIDS risk. Do not drink alcohol if you breastfeed, because that raises your baby’s risk of SIDS. In addition, the simple touch is helpful. Skin-to-skin contact is important for your baby’s development.

Immunize Your Baby

Evidence shows babies who’ve been immunized in accordance with recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC have a 50% reduced risk of SIDS compared with babies who aren’t fully immunized.

Consider Using a Pacifier to Put Baby to Sleep 

Putting your baby to sleep with a pacifier may also help prevent SIDS, though researchers aren’t sure why. There are a few tips to follow when using a pacifier:

  1. If you’re breastfeeding, wait until your baby is breastfeeding regularly (at least 1 month old) before starting to use a pacifier. Introducing a pacifier too soon can lead to nipple confusion and cause your baby to prefer the pacifier’s nipple over your own.

  2. Don’t force your baby to take the pacifier if he doesn’t want it.

  3. Put the pacifier in your baby’s mouth when you put him down to sleep, but don’t put it back in his mouth after he falls asleep.

  4. Keep the pacifier clean, and buy a new one if the nipple is damaged.

  5. Don’t coat the pacifier with honey, alcohol, or any other substance.

Keep Your Baby From Overheating

Because overheating may raise a baby’s risk of SIDS, dress your infant in light, comfortable

clothes for sleeping, and keep the room temperature at a level that’s comfortable for an adult.

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