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Safe Sleep For Your Baby: Reduce The Risk Of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

|Parents And Guardians - Are You Aware Articles
Niki Smidt

February 2, 2004

Research tells us that parents and caregivers should put babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Find out more about SIDS and ways to keep your baby safe from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

What is SIDS?

SIDS stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby under 1 year of age.

Because many SIDS babies are found in their cribs, some people call SIDS "crib death." Cribs do not cause SIDS.

Babies Sleep Safest on Their Backs

One of the easiest ways to lower the risk of SIDS is to put your baby on his or her back to sleep, even for naps. Until a few years ago, doctors told mothers to place babies on their stomachs to sleep. Research now shows that fewer babies die of SIDS when they sleep on their backs.

Facts About SIDS

Doctors and nurses do not know what causes SIDS, but they do know:

  • SIDS is the leading cause of death in babies after 1 month of age to 1 year of age.
  • Most SIDS deaths happen in babies who are under 6 months old.
  • Babies placed to sleep on their stomachs are much more likely to die of SIDS than babies placed on their backs to sleep.
  • Babies are more likely to die of SIDS if they are placed to sleep on top of soft bedding, or if they are covered by soft bedding.
  • African American babies are 2 times more likely to die of SIDS than white babies.
  • American Indian babies are almost 3 times more likely to die of SIDS than white babies.

Even though there is no way to know which babies might die of SIDS, there are some things that you can do to make your baby safer.

What Can I Do to Help Lower the Risk of SIDS?

  • Always place your baby on his or her Back to Sleep, even for naps.
    This is the safest sleep position for a healthy baby to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Place your baby on a firm mattress, such as in a safety-approved crib.*
    Research has shown that placing a baby to sleep on soft mattresses, sofas, sofa cushions, waterbeds, sheepskins, or other soft surfaces greatly increases the risk of SIDS.
    *For more information on crib safety guidelines, call the Consumer Product Safety Commission toll-free at 1-800-638-2772.
  • Remove soft, fluffy, and loose bedding and stuffed toys from your baby’s sleep area.
    Make sure you keep all pillows, quilts, stuffed toys, and other soft items away from your baby’s sleep area.
  • Make sure everyone who cares for your baby knows to place your baby on his or her back to sleep and about the dangers of soft bedding.
    Talk to child care providers, grandparents, babysitters, and all caregivers about SIDS risk. Remember, every sleep time counts. So, for the least risk, remind every caregiver to place your baby on his or her back to sleep on a firm mattress for nighttime and naptime.
  • Make sure your baby’s face and head stay uncovered during sleep.
    Keep blankets and other coverings away from your baby’s mouth and nose. The best way to do this is to dress the baby in sleep clothing so you will not have to use any other covering over the baby. If you do use a blanket or another covering, make sure that the baby’s feet are at the bottom of the crib, the blanket is no higher than the baby’s chest, and the blanket is tucked in around the bottom of the crib mattress.
  • Do not allow smoking around your baby.
    Do not smoke before or after the birth of your baby and make sure no one smokes around your baby.
  • Do not let your baby get too warm during sleep.
    Keep your baby warm during sleep, but not too warm. Your baby’s room should be at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult. Too many layers of clothing or blankets can overheat your baby.

For free publications and more information about reducing the risk of SIDS, call "Back to Sleep" toll-free at 1-800-505-CRIB or write to:

NICHD/Back to Sleep
31 Center Drive
Room 2A32
Bethesda, MD 20892-2425

The "Back to Sleep," campaign is sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the SIDS Alliance, and the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs.


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