How common is SIDS?

Tragically, in 2017, 3,600 sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) were reported in the U.S., according to the CDC, with an estimated 1,400 due to SIDS. There were an additional 1,300 infant deaths due to unknown causes and about 900 cases of accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. SIDS declined significantly between 1990 and 1999, but has not shown much change in the past 20 years.

Reducing SIDS Risk Starts With Sleep

Providing a safe sleep environment is the single most important step you can take to reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. For example, a baby placed on their front to sleep is six times more at risk for SIDS and sleeping with an infant on a sofa can boost SIDS risk by up to 50 times, according to the Lullaby Trust.

SIDS is not a topic anyone wants to think about—but thankfully, there are many ways to reduce your baby’s risk.

15 Tips to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

  1. Only let your baby sleep on the back.

  2. Breastfeed if you can: Babies who are breastfed or fed expressed breastmilk are at lower risk for SIDS compared to babies who were never fed breastmilk. And the longer you exclusively breastfeed your baby, the lower their risk.

  3. Have a smoke-free house: Don’t smoke or allow others to do so. Avoid wood stoves, incense, scented candles, and fireplaces, unless the room is well vented.

  4. Avoid overheating or overcooling: Keep the room between 68°F to 72°F (20–22.2°C), and avoid overdressing. Your baby’s ears should feel slightly warm, not cold or hot.

  5. Swaddle for sleep. Snug wrapping helps recreate the cozy confines of the womb to aid baby sleep and soothe fussing—which may help chip away at the parental exhaustion that can lead Mums and Dads to make risky sleep decisions. Just make sure you stop swaddling as soon as your baby shows signs of rolling (unless you're using SNOO, which allows parents to safely swaddle for up to 6 months).

  6. Offer a pacifier at bedtime (if you’re breastfeeding, wait a couple of weeks until the nursing is well established before giving a paci).

  7. Don’t sleep with your baby in your bed for at least the first 12 months. (Read more on bed-sharing and co-sleeping.)

  8. Never let your baby sleep on a couch, recliner, sofa, armchair, beanbag chair or waterbed.

  9. Remove pillows, toys, crib bumpers, and thick or loose bedding that could cause smothering, like duvets, pillows, bumpers, stuffed animals, sleep positioners, lambskins. (Here's what to know about introducing a pillow.)

  10. No blankets under the baby, either. (This is when you can safely offer a blanket.)

  11. Practice tummy time to help your baby develop strong muscles to move their face away from choking and suffocation risks.

  12. Don’t let your baby sleep sitting up in a car seat, infant carrier, or inclined swing (especially if they're premature or developmentally delayed).

  13. Sleep in the same room as your baby for the first 6 months, with the baby in a bassinet or SNOO Smart Sleeper right near you.

  14. Make sure your baby has received all their immunizations.

  15. Avoid cribs with missing slats, net siding, or a space between the mattress and the side wall where your baby’s head might get trapped.

SIDS Prevention: Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, there’s no absolute way to prevent SIDS. But, most babies who die have at least one of these risk factors, so following all these tips in an effort to prevent SIDS can definitely keep your baby safer! For a complete list of safety tips for parents and caregivers visit www.firstcandle.org.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.