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Infant Sleep

Guide to Safe Sleeping for Infants: How to Prevent SIDS

February 10, 2019, Author: Tamra Cater

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According to the Mayo Clinic, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) “is the unexplained death, usually during sleep of a seemingly healthy baby less than one-year-old.” In order to reduce the number of SIDS cases, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in 1992 that babies be put to sleep on their backs rather than on their stomach or their side. Since this recommendation, the number of SIDS related deaths have declined more than 50%.

However, there are still approximately 2,000-3,000 SIDS related deaths each year in the United States. SIDS is the most common cause of death in the first year of life, and cases of SIDS are most likely to occur between 2-5 months of age. Parents, understandably, are fearful of this and may check on their baby several times throughout the night to check to see if they are breathing (I did this occasionally too!).

Safe sleep

Causes and Risk Factors of SIDS

  • Baby is put to sleep on their stomach or side.
  • Baby is between the ages of 2-4 months
  • Premature and low birth weight babies
  • Male babies
  • Bottle-fed babies
  • Nonwhite infants are more likely to die from SIDS (reasons for this are poorly understood)
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Babies of teenage mothers
  • Sleeping on a soft surface (Lying face down on a waterbed, fluffy comforter, soft mattress)
  • Overheating or being too warm
  • Brain defects (the part of the brain that controls breathing and arousal isn’t working properly)
  • Respiratory problems
  • Mothers that use alcohol, cigarettes, and don’t obtain prenatal care while pregnant are increasing the risk that their baby could die from SIDS

Prevention of SIDS

  • Place your baby to sleep on his back
  • Place baby to sleep on a firm surface (a mattress in a safety approved crib covered by a fitted sheet)
  • Keep soft objects (stuffed animals), loose bedding, crib bumpers, pillows, and any objects that could increase the risk of suffocation or strangulation out of the crib. If you are concerned about whether or not your baby is warm enough, use a sleep sack rather than a loose blanket. I recommend these:
  • Breastfeed
  • Go on all well-child visits
  • Keep baby away from smokers. If you are a smoker, quit.
  • Don’t let your baby get too overheated (turn on a fan in the room)
  • Use a pacifier
  • Don’t use products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. This includes items such as special mattresses and positioners.
  • Immunize your baby


One other way to help prevent SIDS is to have your baby sleep in your room, which was a new recommendation made by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2016. However, this doesn’t mean that the baby should sleep in your bed. Preferably, if a baby sleeps in your room, it should be in a crib or in a bassinet. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has not released safety standards for the use of in-bed sleepers, and there have been no studies that have looked at the association between these in-bed sleepers and the risk of SIDS. However, to be on the safe side, I would stick with a crib or bassinet.

In one study, it was suggested that if mom and baby sleep in the same room, they are in lighter sleep states and have more opportunities for breastfeeding. In turn, the baby may be better able to arouse themselves if they have a serious episode of sleep apnea. Another added benefit of sleeping in the same room is that parents can respond more quickly if the baby is in distress (i.e., if they are hungry, cold, sick). This responsivity to the baby’s needs helps build a secure attachment between the parent and child (a strong emotional bond). In turn, this secure attachment helps the child become better able to regulate their emotions and build resilience.

As a parent, do what you feel is best in terms of sleeping arrangements, but do it safely. 🙂

Please share this post if you feel like someone can benefit from it!




McKenna, J. J. (2007). Co-sleeping with your baby: A parent’s guide to co-sleeping. Washington, D.C.: Platypus Media.

Miller, P. M., & Commons, M. L. (2010). The benefits of attachment parenting for infants and children: A behavioral development view. Behavioral Development Bulletin, 10, 1-14.

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comments (4)

  • avatar image
    My own kids are grown, but I have a good friend who just became a mom. I love the sleep sac idea, and will share it with her. Thanks for the helpful information!


    April 24, 2019 Reply
    • avatar image
      Thank you!

      Tamra Cater

      April 24, 2019 Reply
  • avatar image
    My kids are mostly grown now but I remember being terrified of this. I constantly checked them to make sure they were breathing. Thank you for bringing more awareness to this issue especially for new parents!


    April 24, 2019 Reply
    • avatar image
      I was terrified myself! I’d check to make sure my daughter was still breathing!

      Tamra Cater

      April 24, 2019 Reply