The Basics: Overview
You can lower your baby's risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes of death.
What is SIDS?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden death of a child under age 1 that experts can’t explain 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 1,500 babies in the United States died from SIDS in 2014.
What causes SIDS?
Experts don’t know what causes SIDS, which can be scary for parents. One thing we do know is that SIDS is most likely to happen while a baby is sleeping.
Even though the cause of SIDS isn’t known, some things do make it more likely to happen. For example, babies are at higher risk for SIDS if they:
- Are put to sleep on their stomachs instead of their backs – even for a short nap
- Sleep on a soft surface (like an adult mattress, a chair, or a couch)
- Sleep on top of or under loose sheets 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 while she was pregnant
The Basics: Lower Your Baby's Risk
How can I help keep my baby safe during sleep?
Thinking about SIDS may be scary, but 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 about other sleep-related causes of death?
Creating a safe place for your baby to sleep also protects her from accidental suffocation. Suffocation is when someone can’t breathe. For example, if a blanket is covering a baby’s mouth and nose, she may not be able to get enough air. This can cause accidental suffocation.
To lower your baby’s risk of both suffocation and SIDS:
- Set up your baby's sleep area in your room next to your bed – but don't share a bed with your baby.
- Put your baby to sleep on a firm surface without soft objects like blankets, bumpers, pillows, and toys.
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