Keep Your Baby Safe During Sleep

The Basics

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
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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.

To learn more:

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Take Action!

Take Action: Back to Sleep

Follow these steps to help keep your baby safe during sleep.

Always put your baby to sleep on her back.

One of the most important things you can do to keep your baby safe during sleep is to put her to sleep on her back – at night and for naps.

Never put your baby to sleep on her stomach. Babies who sleep on their stomachs are more likely to die from SIDS. Putting your baby to sleep on her stomach just once, even for a quick nap, can be dangerous.

Talk to other people who care for your child.

Babies who normally sleep on their backs are at much higher risk for SIDS if they are put to sleep on their stomachs – even for just a nap. That's why it's so important to tell anyone who is caring for your baby (like a babysitter or a family member) that your baby needs to sleep on his back – every time.

Have “tummy time” when your baby is awake.

When your baby is awake or someone else is watching her, it's fine to put your baby on her stomach. In fact, tummy time is important for your baby’s development – it makes your baby’s neck and shoulders stronger so she can start to sit up, crawl, and walk. Learn more about tummy time.

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Take Action: Use a Firm Sleep Surface

Put your baby to sleep on a firm sleep surface.

Always put your baby to sleep on a firm surface, like a firm mattress in a safety-approved crib. 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”).

It’s very important to never put your baby to sleep on a soft surface, like a:

  • Couch or chair
  • Adult mattress
  • Waterbed
  • Comforter or quilt
  • Pillow
  • Sheepskin
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Take Action: Careful with Bedding

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 could make it more likely that he will:

  • Suffocate (be unable to breathe)
  • Breathe air that’s low in oxygen
  • Get too hot while sleeping

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 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: 

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Take Action: Don't Share a Bed

Share a room with your baby, but not a bed.

Having your baby sleep in the same room as you can lower the risk of SIDS if your baby is in her own crib, bassinet, or other safety-approved sleep area.

Sleeping with you (or with other children or pets) in an adult bed or any shared sleep surface 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. This is especially true for babies younger than 3 months.

Make sure your baby doesn’t get too hot during sleep.

Babies who get too hot while they are sleeping may be more likely to die from SIDS.

To keep your baby cool while he sleeps:

  • Never use blankets or quilts to keep your baby warm.
  • Put your baby in sleep clothing (like a 1-piece sleeper) that fits properly. 
  • Keep the room where your baby sleeps at the same temperature you think is comfortable for adults. The room doesn’t need to be warmer than that.

If you are worried that your baby will get cold at night, you can put your baby in a "sleeping sack." A sleeping sack is a blanket that your baby can wear – it usually has a zipper in the front.

Read more about ways to lower your baby's risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of death.

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Take Action: Other Tips

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.

Don't smoke during pregnancy.

Babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are more likely to die from SIDS. Get more tips to have a healthy pregnancy.

Get your child's shots on schedule.

Make sure your baby gets all of the recommended shots (vaccines) on schedule. This can help lower her risk for SIDS.

Breastfeed your baby.

Breastfeeding your baby lowers her risk for SIDS. And breastfeeding is healthy for both moms and babies!

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