How can I help keep my baby safe during sleep?
Thinking about SIDS and other sleep-related causes of death may be scary, but it’s important to know how you can lower your baby’s risk.
Take these steps to help keep your baby safe:
- Always put your baby to sleep on his back – at night and for naps.
- Put your baby to sleep on a firm surface, like a mattress in a safety-approved crib, bassinet, or play yard.
- Use a fitted sheet. Keep loose bedding and soft objects out of your baby’s crib.
- Share a room with your baby – but not a bed.
- Make sure your baby doesn’t get too hot during sleep.
- Never smoke or let other people smoke around your baby.
- Breastfeed your baby.
- Make sure your baby gets all recommended shots (vaccines).
What is SIDS?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden death of a baby younger than 1 year old that experts can’t explain, even after looking closely at the case. In other words, when a healthy baby dies suddenly and no one can explain why, doctors say the baby died from SIDS.
In the United States, SIDS is the leading cause of death for babies ages 1 month to 1 year. Most SIDS deaths happen between ages 1 month and 4 months. About 1,600 babies in the United States died from SIDS in 2015.
What causes SIDS?
Experts don’t know what causes SIDS, which can be scary for parents. But we do know that some things make SIDS more likely to happen.
For example, babies are at higher risk for SIDS if they:
- Are put to sleep on their stomachs
- Sleep on a soft surface (like an adult mattress, a chair, or a couch)
- Sleep on top of or under soft coverings (like sheepskins or blankets)
- Sleep with toys or soft objects (like pillows, stuffed animals, or crib bumpers)
- Get too hot while they sleep
- Share a bed with adults, other children, or pets
- Are around people who smoke cigarettes – or their mother smoked during pregnancy
What are other sleep-related causes of infant death?
If babies aren’t able to breathe because of something in their sleep area, they may die. When this happens, it’s called a “sleep-related cause of infant death.”
This can happen when:
- Something covers a baby’s mouth and nose
- A baby gets trapped between 2 objects
- Something presses on or wraps around a baby’s neck
These sleep-related causes of infant death usually happen by accident. For example, a loose blanket in a baby’s sleep area could cover the baby’s mouth and nose so she’s not able to get enough air. This can cause the baby to suffocate.
Creating a safe place for your baby to sleep helps protect her against SIDS and other sleep-related causes of death.
To learn more:
Take the following steps to help keep your baby safe.
Always put your baby to sleep on his back.
One of the most important things you can do to keep your baby safe during sleep is to put him to sleep on his back – at night and for naps. This is the safest position for all babies until they are 1 year old.
Babies need to sleep on their backs because babies who sleep on their stomachs are more likely to die from SIDS. And it’s very important to always put your baby to sleep on his back, even for a nap. This is because babies who usually sleep on their backs are at very high risk for SIDS if they sleep on their stomach.
If your baby rolls onto his stomach on his own while he’s asleep, that’s okay. Starting out sleeping on their backs is what’s most important for lowering babies’ risk for SIDS.
Put your baby to sleep on a firm, flat sleep surface.
Always put your baby to sleep on a surface that is firm and flat, like a mattress in a safety-approved crib. Make sure the surface is covered by a fitted sheet, with no other bedding or soft items in the area. Get tips for choosing a safe crib.
Your baby can also sleep safely in a safety-approved bassinet or play yard (sometimes called a “pack and play”).
Safety-approved cribs, bassinets, and play yards follow the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). To learn more about crib safety standards, call 1-800-638-2772 or visit the CPSC’s crib information site.
Don’t let your baby sleep on soft surfaces.
It’s very important to never put your baby to sleep on a soft surface, like a:
- Couch or chair
- Adult mattress
- Comforter or quilt
Share a room with your baby, but not a bed.
Sleeping in an adult bed with you (or with other children or pets) is dangerous for your baby. Babies who share a bed with someone else are more likely to die from SIDS or other sleep-related cause of death.
Having your baby sleep in the same room as you – in her own crib, play yard, or bassinet – can lower the risk of SIDS. Keep your baby in the room with you for at least the first 6 months, or the first 12 months if possible.
Keep in mind that couches and armchairs can be very dangerous for your baby if you fall asleep while feeding or holding her. It’s important to be aware of how awake or tired you are – and avoid holding your baby on this type of furniture when you feel sleepy.
Breastfeed your baby.
Breastfeeding your baby lowers her risk for SIDS. And breastfeeding is healthy for both moms and babies!
If you bring your baby into your bed for feeding, be sure to put her back in her separate sleep area when finished. To make this easier, keep your baby’s crib or bassinet close to your bed.
If you fall asleep while feeding or comforting your baby in an adult bed, put her back in her own sleep area as soon as you wake up. Sleeping in an adult bed increases your baby’s risk for sleep-related causes of infant death.
Keep loose bedding and soft objects out of your baby’s crib.
Loose bedding (like sheets and blankets) and other soft objects (like pillows and stuffed animals) can cover your baby’s face. This can make it more likely that your baby won’t be able to breathe.
Make sure your baby can’t get tangled in loose sheets or blankets. To do this:
- Choose a tight-fitting bottom sheet for the crib mattress.
- Don’t put your baby to sleep with a sheet, blanket, or quilt.
It’s also important to never put your baby to sleep with soft items like:
- Soft toys
- Stuffed animals
- Crib bumpers
- Sleep positioners or wedges
Check out these resources to learn more:
- See what a safe sleep area looks like.
- Watch this 5-minute video to learn about nursery product safety.
Don’t let your baby get too hot during sleep.
Babies who get too hot while they are sleeping are at higher risk for SIDS.
To keep your baby cool while he sleeps:
- Put your baby in sleep clothing (like a 1-piece sleeper) that fits properly.
- Don’t use blankets in the sleep area to keep your baby warm.
- Keep your baby’s head and face uncovered during sleep.
Try giving your baby a pacifier for naps and at night.
Using a pacifier during sleep lowers a baby’s risk of SIDS. Don’t attach the pacifier to anything (like a string, clothing, stuffed toy, or blanket) because that can be dangerous.
Wait until your baby is used to breastfeeding before offering a pacifier – but don’t force her to use it.
Get your child’s shots and checkups on schedule.
Make sure your baby gets all of the recommended shots (vaccines) on schedule. This can help lower the risk for SIDS. Getting regular checkups is important, too.
Never smoke or let other people smoke around your baby.
Babies who are around people who smoke are more likely to die from SIDS. Read more about babies and secondhand smoke.
Have a healthy pregnancy.
Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and using marijuana and illegal drugs during pregnancy and after the baby is born. Babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are more likely to die from SIDS.
Be sure to get regular checkups when you are pregnant. Use these tips to have a healthy pregnancy.
Avoid products that claim to lower the risk of SIDS.
Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent SIDS. No product that claims to keep babies in a specific position or to lower the risk of SIDS has been shown by research to be safe or effective. Many of these products may actually increase the risk of injury and death.
Don’t use breathing or heart monitors to lower the risk of SIDS.
Some doctors recommend certain monitors for babies with health conditions, but these monitors are not related to SIDS or SIDS risk. Talk with your baby’s doctor if you have questions about using breathing or heart monitors for health reasons.
Have supervised “tummy time” when your baby is awake.
When your baby is awake and someone is watching him, it’s fine to put him on his stomach. In fact, tummy time is important for your baby’s development – it makes your baby’s neck and shoulders stronger so he can start to sit up, crawl, and walk. Learn more about tummy time.
Talk to other people who care for your child.
Babies are at much higher risk for SIDS if they are put to sleep in a way they are not used to, like being placed on their stomachs for a nap when they usually sleep on their backs.
That’s why it’s so important to tell everyone who cares for your baby (like babysitters and family members) that your baby needs to sleep on his back every time.