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Reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

a baby sleeps in a sleep sack

A sleep sack is the safest way for your baby to sleep. Your baby's arms can either be in or out of the sleep sack.

a baby swaddled in a blanket

You may use a blanket to swaddle.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplainable death of a baby younger than 12 months old. These babies appear to be healthy yet die when they are asleep.

Most SIDS deaths occur when babies are 1 to 4 months old. The peak time is 2 to 3 months old. SIDS is not common. It happens to fewer than one in 1,000 babies in this country.

There are things you can do to reduce your baby's risk of SIDS. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:

  • Your baby is safest sleeping on his back. Always place your baby on his back to sleep.
  • Use a firm crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet.
  • Never have your baby sleep on a pillow, sheepskin, fluffy bedding, or waterbed. Never use a couch, sofa or chair as a place for your baby to sleep.
  • Keep soft, loose bedding and toys out of the crib. Do not place pillows, quilts, or stuffed animals in the crib. Do not use bumper pads.
  • Don't let your baby get overheated. Keep the room temperature comfortable for an adult. Dress your baby in light clothing.
  • The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib or bassinet. Do not share a bed with your baby during sleep. Do not let your baby sleep with a sibling.
  • Consider offering your baby a clean, dry pacifier at naptime and bedtime. Don't force your baby to take it. If you are breastfeeding, don't offer the pacifier until breastfeeding is well established. This may be at about one month of age.
  • Don't allow anyone to smoke around your baby.
  • Baby care tips

    To help prevent your baby's head from getting a little flatter on one side or in the back:

    • Give your baby lots of tummy time when she is awake.
    • Each week switch the direction your baby faces in the crib.

  • Do not use commercial devices or baby monitors that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. There is no evidence such products reduce the incidence of SIDS.
    If you use these products, they are OK for listening to your baby when you are in different rooms, but they don't prevent SIDS accidents.

Talk with your baby's health care provider about what is best for your baby if your baby often spits up after eating or has breathing, heart or lung problems.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition

To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or she" and "him" or "her."

First published: 02/01/2010
Last updated: 01/01/2014

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic