6 Safety Tips for Parents to Prevent SIDS

  • new-mom-holding-sleeping-baby
    You can help prevent a leading cause of infant death.
    For new parents, the hours when their child takes a nap or goes down for the night provide a welcome break from the near-constant schedule of caring for a baby. Unfortunately, however, one of the biggest dangers to infants tends to occur when the child is sleeping. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby between one month and one year old. Research suggests infants who die from SIDS are born with abnormalities or defects in their brains, but environmental factors, like the baby’s sleep area, also play a role. Alarmingly, a recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that 91% of babies observed were sleeping in unsafe environments and at risk for SIDS. Make sure you know how to help your baby sleep soundly—and safely.
  • baby-on-back-asleep
    1. Put your baby to sleep on his back.
    The best thing parents can do to prevent SIDS is to make sure their baby falls asleep on his back—not his stomach or side. Stomach sleeping is the biggest risk factor for SIDS, and when a baby is lying on its side, it can easily roll on to it stomach. Some parents fear their children will choke on vomit if placed on their backs, but studies have not found any evidence of this. However, it is possible for your baby to develop a flat spot on the back of his head as a result of sleeping on his back. To prevent and correct this, it’s important for babies to spend some time on their stomachs; this “tummy time” also helps their shoulder, neck and head muscles get stronger. Experts recommend supervised tummy time several times a day while your baby is awake. 
  • baby-on-back-asleep-in-crib
    2. Keep your baby’s crib clear.
    While you might think your child needs her stuffed giraffe to sleep, research shows loose toys, blankets, pillows, or other bedding in the crib raises the risk of SIDS. Don’t place crib bumpers in the area, either. While bumper pads or padded bassinets were used years ago to prevent babies from falling between wide cribs slats, they’re no longer necessary now that cribs are required to meet safety standards. And studies have shown these bumpers can cause injury or death to infants. For warmth, instead of a loose blanket, swaddling your baby or using a fleece sleep sack will keep her safely snug.
  • baby-on-back-asleep-in-crib
    3. Make sure your child sleeps on a firm mattress.
    Your baby is safest while sleeping on a firm mattress covered only by a tight fitted sheet. Don’t place fluffy blankets or pillows under the baby, and don’t allow your child to sleep on a sofa or inflatable mattress. If your baby has fallen asleep in a car seat, stroller, swing, or infant carrier, move him to a firm sleep surface as soon as you can. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, a governmental organization, offers more information on safe mattresses and cribs at their website.
  • new-parents-with-baby
    4. Share your room, but not your bed.
    To keep your baby safe, put her to sleep in a crib next to your bed. Sleeping next to your child in the same bed raises the risk of SIDS, suffocation and strangulation, as parents may accidentally roll onto babies during the night or babies can become tangled in sheets or blankets.
  • premature-baby-in-crib
    5. Make sure you baby doesn’t get too hot.
    Your bundle of joy doesn’t need to be bundled up when sleeping. Overheating is a risk factor for SIDS, so dress your baby in light clothes to sleep and keep the room’s temperature comfortable. If you’re worried your baby is cold, look for special infant sleep clothing designed to keep babies warm without covering their heads.
  • baby-asleep-on-back-in-crib
    6. Don’t move your infant to a less safe place during the night.
    The study in Pediatrics found when an infant was moved in the middle of the night, he was more likely to be placed in an unsafe sleep environment, like his parents’ bed, and he was more likely to sleep on his stomach or side. Researchers believe parents may assume safety concerns only apply when the baby is falling asleep, and not in the middle of the night. However, it’s important for your baby to remain in a safe sleep environment for the whole night. If the baby wakes up and must be moved, he should be returned to his crib without any loose items, and placed on his back.
6 Safety Tips for Parents to Prevent SIDS

About The Author

Allie Lemco Toren is a health writer and regular contributor to Healthgrades, where she also serves as Senior Health Editor. Her work has also been featured by ShareWIK Health Entertainment, WebMD, Everyday Health, and Food Solutions Magazine. A graduate of Emory University’s journalism program, Allie particularly enjoys writing about medical innovations, the mind-body connection, and thriving with chronic illness.
  1. Batra EK, Teti DM, Schaefer EW, et al. Nocturnal Video Assessment of Infant Sleep Environments. Pediatrics. 2016;138(3). http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/3/e20161533
  2. Reduce the Risk of SIDS. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Preventing-SIDS.aspx
  3. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/basics/prevention/con-20020269
  4. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Sudden-infant-death-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  5. How can I reduce the risk of SIDS? National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/sids/conditioninfo/Pages/reduce-risk.aspx
  6. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. http://www.chop.edu/conditions-diseases/sudden-infant-death-syndrome-sids#.V_ux9ZMrIo8
  7. Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome” About SUID and SIDS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/sids/

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Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 30
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