Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS, is the number one cause of death for babies one month to one-year-old in the United States. Ninety percent of SIDS deaths occur during the first six months of life and peak when babies are between one to four months old. SIDS often cannot be explained even after an investigation or an autopsy.

Several factors increase the risk of SIDS:

  • Premature or low birth weight babies
  • Babies who become overheated during sleep
  • Babies who sleep with blankets or overly soft beddings and mattresses
  • Babies who’ve recently had a cold or other respiratory issues
  • Babies who sleep on their stomachs

No parent ever wants to think that SIDS can happen to their babies. Fortunately, there are things in a parent’s control that can help prevent SIDS. One of them is implementing safe sleeping habits.

In the 1990s “Back to Sleep” and “Safe to Sleep” campaigns started to teach parents that babies are safest when they sleep on their backs. The good news is that since these campaigns began, there have been 50 percent fewer deaths from SIDS.

Here are simple rules you can follow to ensure you are following safe sleeping guidelines:

  • Always place your baby on his back to sleep, including during naptimes.
  • Only use a crib that meets safety standards.
  • Put in a firm mattress that fits the crib snugly without any gaps.
  • Use a fitted sheet with the mattress. 
  • Remove any other blankets or pillows from the crib.
  • Keep blankets and stuffed toys out of the crib.
  • Have your baby use a wearable blanket, like a swaddle or sleep sack instead of loose blankets.
  • Offer a pacifier when the baby is about to sleep.
  • Breastfeed if you can. When you’re done feeding, put your baby back to sleep on its back.
  • Have a separate sleeping area for your baby, such as a crib or a bassinet beside your bed. Do not keep your baby in bed with you.
  • Do not smoke around your baby.
  • Make sure your baby does not overheat during sleep, so do not dress your baby too warmly for sleep.
  • If your baby sleeps in another room from you, have a baby monitor where you can see your baby.

Because there is no way to test whether a baby is at risk for SIDS, the only way to help prevent it is to implement safe sleeping habits. The points mentioned above are crucial tips on how you can prevent SIDS. Although it may seem like a long list to follow, and that one stuffed animal or blanket inside the crib won’t hurt, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

SIDS is a tragedy that no one would wish on their worst enemy. Fortunately, there are factors within our control that can help prevent this tragedy from happening. The most important thing to remember is always to put your baby on their back when sleeping. This action alone will significantly decrease the chance of SIDS. For more safe sleeping tips, visit the Mayo Clinic website here.