SIDS: What Every Parent Needs to Know

Reduce the risk of SIDS

Although the exact cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is unknown, there are steps parents and caregivers can take to reduce the risk. Here’s what every parent needs to know. 

SIDS is the the leading cause of death in the country in infants in their first year of life. However, the exact cause of SIDS still remains a mystery, though it is often attributed to unsafe sleeping practices.

October is National SIDS Awareness Month, so we asked the experts at SafeKids Washoe County for a list of precautions that every parent needs to know. 

Protecting Babies from SIDS

  • Always place babies on their backs when putting them to sleep for naps and at night.
  • Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet.
  • Share your room — not your bed — with your baby. Your baby should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair alone, with you, or with anyone else.
  • Keep soft objects, such as pillows and loose bedding, out of your baby’s sleep area.
  • Do not smoke during pregnancy or around the baby; these are strong risk factors for SIDS. The risk of SIDS is even greater when a baby shares a bed with a smoker. To reduce risk, do not smoke during pregnancy, and do not smoke or allow smoking around your baby.


Q: Who’s most at risk?

A: Three out of five SIDS victims are boys. African-American and Native American infants are two to three times more prone to the syndrome. Other groups at increased risk include preemies, low-birthweight babies, and infants who are exposed to cigarette smoke.

Q: Is putting my baby down on her back really that important?

A: It’s vital. Back-sleeping increases a baby’s access to fresh air and makes her less likely to get overheated (another factor linked to SIDS).

Q: I put my child to sleep on his back at night, but can I let this rule slide for a short nap?

A: It’s not worth the risk. Babies who normally sleep on their back are 18 times more likely to die of SIDS when placed down on their tummy for a snooze.

Q: Is side-sleeping safe?

A: No. Studies show that putting a baby down on her side rather than on her back doubles the SIDS risk. “It’s easier for an infant to roll onto her tummy from her side than from her back.

Q: I’m worried about my baby getting cold. Is it safe to cover her with a blanket?

A: Wait until her first birthday. Blankets, pillows, comforters, and stuffed toys can hinder your child’s breathing; even soft or improperly fitting mattresses can be dangerous. If you’re worried that your little one may get chilly, swaddle her in a receiving blanket or use a sleep sack.

Q: Is it dangerous to give my baby a pacifier?

A: Not at all. Pacifiers actually reduce the risk of SIDS, possibly by preventing babies from falling into an extremely deep sleep. Its now recommended that you consider giving your child a pacifier at night and for naps during his first year. Note: If you’re breastfeeding, don’t introduce a pacifier until your infant is 1 month old and nursing well.

Q: My baby has started to flip onto her stomach during the night. How can I stop this?

A: You can’t — but don’t worry. “Once a baby can roll over by herself, her brain is mature enough to alert her to breathing dangers and by the time the child is 6 months old, the improved motor skills will help to rescue the baby, so the SIDS risk is greatly reduced.”

Q: My baby sleeps better in my bed. What’s the big danger of co sleeping?

A: Actually, there are lots of them. Your infant could be suffocated by a pillow or a loose blanket. The air supply may be cut off if you or your spouse inadvertently rolls over onto the baby. And he could be strangled if his head gets trapped between the headboard and mattress.

If you decide to co sleep, don’t put your baby right in the bed. Instead, get a co sleeping crib that clamps onto the frame of your bed. Or you might simply try moving your baby’s crib into your room. Several studies show this sleeping arrangement reduces the SIDS risk.

Q: What causes infants to stop breathing while they sleep?

A: Experts believe SIDS victims have an immature arousal center in the brain. Put simply, they can’t wake themselves up when they’re having trouble breathing. Infants who sleep on their stomach are particularly vulnerable to SIDS.

Source: SafeKids of Washoe County

Renown Pediatrics | 775-982-KIDS (5437)

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