Topic updated: December 2012

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

What is SIDS?

SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant younger than one year old.

It is the leading cause of death in children between one month and one year of age.  Most SIDS deaths happen when babies are between 2 months and 4 months of age.

How can I reduce the SIDS risk?

  • Always place babies on their backs to sleep – Babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides.  Placing your baby on his or her back to sleep is the number one way to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Use the back sleep position every time – Babies who usually sleep on their backs but who are then placed on their stomachs, like for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS.  So it is important for babies to sleep on their backs every time, for naps and at night.
  • Place your baby on a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved* crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet - Never place a baby to sleep on a pillow, quilt, sheepskin, or other soft surface.
  • Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area – Don’t use pillows, blankets, quilts, sheepskins, or pillow-like bumpers in your baby’s sleep area.  Keep all items away from the baby’s face.
  • Avoid letting your baby overheat during sleep – Dress your baby in light sleep clothing and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
  • Think about using a clean, dry pacifier when placing your baby down to sleep, but don’t force the baby to take it.  (If you’re breastfeeding, wait until your child is 1 month old, or is used to breastfeeding before using a pacifier.)

More information on sleep position for babies and reducing the risk of SIDS from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Woman washing her face

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