Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (or SIDS) is the unexplainable death of a child who is healthy and less than one year old.
A cause for SIDS has not been identified, but there is some evidence to indicate irregularities in a baby’s brain that control breathing or waking from sleep may be involved.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS and sleep-related deaths from birth to age 1:
- Always place your baby on his or her back for sleep. Until your child is 1 year old, placing your baby on his or her back for sleep is best. This can decrease the risk for choking, aspiration, and SIDS. Do not put your baby down for sleep on his side or stomach. While your child is awake and you are supervising, let your child have tummy time to decrease the chances of a flat head.
- Breastfeed. The AAP recommends breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months.
- Keep your baby’s immunizations up to date. There is less risk of SIDS when infants have all their immunizations.
- Before raising the head of the crib, talk to your pediatrician. Some parents of babies with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux or heartburn) may want their baby’s head raised during sleep, but first consult your baby’s healthcare provider.
- Give your baby a pacifier for sleep. If you are breastfeeding, wait to introduce a pacifier until breastfeeding is established.
- Use a firm mattress covered only by a fitted sheet. This prevents gaps between the sides of the crib and mattress and can reduce risk of entrapment, SIDS, and suffocation.
- Do not place your infant on an armchair or couch for sleep. Sleeping on a soft surface increases the risk of death, including SIDS, for infants.
- Avoid using strollers, car seats, and infant swings for daily naps and regular sleep. These can cause a blockage to an infant’s airway or increase risk of suffocation.
- Do not sleep with your baby. Instead, share your room. Sleeping in bed with your baby increases the risk of SIDS, strangulation, suffocation, and entrapment. Bed sharing is also not recommended for twins or other higher multiples. The AAP recommends that infants sleep in a separate bed or crib in the same room as their parents. This sleeping arrangement is recommended at least for the first 6 months, and ideally for the baby’s first year.
- Do not overdress, over bundle, or allow your baby’s face or head to be covered during sleep. If a baby becomes overheated, there is increased risk for SIDS.
- Avoid smoking and using street drugs and alcohol during pregnancy and after birth. Keep your baby away from places where others are smoking.