How to Reduce the Risk of SIDS for Your Baby

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome strikes fear in the hearts of parents everywhere and with good reason. SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants ages 1 month to 12 months of age, striking one in every 1,000 babies.

(Caveat: The information presented here is that recommended for healthy, full-term babies. It is informational in nature and not intended to be a substitute or to supersede advice from a licensed health care provider. Remember that this is general information only; every situation is unique and deserves questions from parents to their pediatrician or other health care provider.)

An observational study conducted by researchers and published August 15, 2016 in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal found that parents of infants younger than 6 months of age were choosing unsafe sleep environments or positions for sleep even while being videotaped. Unsafe sleep environments were defined as those that are known to add to the risk of SIDS, rather than reducing or eliminating those risks.

The research, not done to point fingers or assign blame, was instead to better understand what information needs to be available for parents and caregivers of infants. The goal for parents, doctors and researchers alike is to keep each baby as safe as possible.

Sometimes well-meaning grandparents or friends offer advice about baby’s sleeping arrangement or position — and perhaps when they raised children, that information was accurate. It can be difficult especially for first-time parents to ignore such advice, but science and medicine are on your side. The advances made in the understanding of what used to be called crib death mean that today’s parents can reduce some of the risk factors older parents just didn’t know.

Controllable Risk Factors for SIDS Regarding Your Baby’s Sleep Position and Environment

  • Health professionals, ranging from the American Academy of Pediatrics to those at the Mayo Clinic emphasize the importance of placing an infant to sleep on his or her back. Dr. Dean Lasseter, pediatrician at University of Missouri Health Care attributes this one action by parents – putting your baby on his/her back to sleep – to decreasing the risk of SIDS in your child by 50 percent since 1994.
  • Put your baby to sleep on a firm surface. Water beds, pillows, blankets and more can obstruct a baby’s airway, making breathing more difficult.
  • Co-sleeping with parents or siblings. Although having your baby sleep in the same room as you decreases the risk of SIDS, sleeping with your baby is discouraged because there are likely to be soft surfaces that can make it more difficult for baby to breathe unless you are using one of the new co-sleeping arrangements available. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
  • Don’t turn up the heat where the baby is sleeping. Overheating is recognized as a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Keep your home, or at least the baby’s sleeping area, at a moderate temperature and don’t overdress your baby or use heavy covers. Swaddling is a popular method of calming infants under six months of age, but must be done properly to avoid becoming a risk of its own.

Related Reading: Sudden Infant Death: What the Nurse Taught This Mother Put Her Baby’s Life at Risk

  • A baby needs only a firm, safe surface for sleeping and perhaps one lightweight blanket. Avoid the use of pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals or multiple sheets or blankets where your baby sleeps.
  • Keep baby’s head uncovered during nap time and bedtime.
  • Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Use a fitted sheet on the crib mattress to prevent the sheet from becoming loose while baby sleeps.
  • Keep appointments with baby’s health care provider. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or voice your concerns about your baby regarding sleep or any other issue.



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  1. Kyla Matton Osborne (Ruby3881)
  2. Deb Jones

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