Thank goodness science continues to improve…and we all get smarter!

When I started out as a pediatrician, doctors told parents that babies should never sleep on their backs. We thought they’d die from choking on their spit up, but we were literally 180 degrees wrong! Now we know that the back is the only safe position for sleeping babies.  

Another big mistake we made back then was not using car seats to protect kids from deadly car accidents. It used to be common for parents to take their babies for a drive…placing them on the seat, totally unsecured!  Fast forward to today, and you can’t even leave the hospital with your new baby unless you have an approved car seat!

Through the diligent work of thousands of hospitals and child safety experts automobile-related deaths have dropped 71%, from 200+ infants per year to 60. Car seats have revolutionized child safety, but there continues to be an even bigger risk to innocent babies, a serious problem where we need to get a lot smarter…infant sleep deaths! 

For the past 30 years, the #1 cause of death of healthy infants has been SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or SUID (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death). Tragically, these infant sleep fatalities take the lives of 3,400 U.S. babies each and every year.

1994: Baby Safety Takes a Big Step Forward

In 1994, shortly after car seat laws went into effect, doctors made the wonderful discovery that back sleeping immediately improved infant safety. Stomach sleeping was proven to be the major cause of SUID. That insight prompted the launch of the famous Back to Sleep campaign. Doctors around the world urged parents to stop placing their babies to sleep on their stomachs. The result? Stomach sleeping dropped from 83% in 1993 to 27% in 2010—and SUID plummeted by almost 50%!

In an effort to save even more babies’ lives, doctors added several more safe sleep recommendations: Don’t smoke (during or after pregnancy), keep soft loose bedding out of the baby’s sleep space, breastfeed if you can, room share (but don’t bed share), and avoid overheating.  

We were confident that SUID rates would continue to plummet.

But we were wrong!

Baby Safety Gets Stalled

In the recent CDC report (2022), the government noted that, despite our best efforts, the incidence of SUID in the U.S. was unchanged…in over 20 years! Furthermore, SUID deaths among Black infants jumped a very disturbing 15%. 

Why did our progress stall?

Although back sleeping is definitely the safest position, many babies wake and cry more often when placed on their backs. As a result, exhausted parents may accidentally—or intentionally—ignore their doctor’s advice. Today, around 50% of parents admit to engaging in risky sleep behaviors, at least some of the time. Many exhausted moms and dads fall prey to the temptation to do some middle of the night bed sharing.

Today: More Progress…for Safer Babies

Ten years ago, my wife, Nina, and I founded Happiest Baby out of a dream and a passion: We wanted to help parents keep their babies safer.  Our plan was to create a baby bed that would make two big steps forward in infant safety.

First, we believed it was important to help babies sleep a little longer. Exhausted parents sometimes do unsafe things. Tired moms and dads get into car accidents when they drive for hours trying to boost their baby’s sleep. And millions of sleep deprived families bought unsafe pillows and bumpers and rocking sleepers in their desire for just a bit more rest. Many of these have been banned because they increase the risk of infant deaths.

In a big step forward, SNOO Smart Sleeper has safely lulled babies to sleep for 500+ million hours. SNOO’s gentle shushing, rocking, and safe swaddling add about an hour to nighttime sleep and SNOO responds to fussing with increased rocking and sound…calming 50% of cry episodes in under 1 minute.

Second, we envisioned a bed that could secure sleeping babies on the back…to keep them from rolling to a dangerous position.

I’m proud to share that, this past March, SNOO became the first and only baby bed granted FDA authorization (as a De Novo device…meaning it’s the very first product of its kind!) for keeping sleeping babies safely positioned on the back.

Back sleeping is important because 64% of SUID occurs when babies are placed on—or roll to—their side or stomach. The National Institute of Health advises that back sleeping is the single most effective way to lower a baby’s risk of infant sleep death. (For important safety information visit

As mentioned above, we secure babies in car seats to protect babies—every time we drive. Likewise, we wouldn’t use a stroller…or a highchair…or a bouncy seat…or a swing without securing babies so they can’t wiggle out. So, what about for sleep? Finally we have a way—SNOO—to help safely secure babies on the back every time they sleep…12 to 18 hours a day.

At Happiest Baby, our goal is to help every parent get a SNOO—for free. Thousands already get a 6-month free rental as a benefit from 70+ top companies (like Chase Bank, Under Armour, Snapchat, and Activision). We’re working hard to make SNOO a covered benefit by insurance, HSA/FSA accounts, Medicaid, even the U.S. military, but in the meantime any U.S. family can rent SNOO for about $5/day—the cost of a Starbucks—and it ships to you for free.

Today, we look back in amazement at the moms and dads who drove millions of precious children for millions of hours…totally unsecured. One day, I hope that safely securing sleeping infants—to prevent risky rolling—will also become just the normal way we do things. 

More on Sleep Safety:

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.