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Sids (sudden Infant Death Syndrome)


What is SIDS?

SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, is the sudden death of a sleeping baby younger than 1 year old. The death cannot be explained even after a review of the baby's health history, surroundings, and autopsy results. SIDS is one type of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID). A SUID is any unexpected death of an infant.

What increases the risk for SIDS?

SIDS is more common among boys and peaks between 2 and 4 months of age. It is also more common during late fall and winter. A baby born at a low birth weight or who recently had a fever or infection is at higher risk. The risk of SIDS increases if a baby's mother smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, or used drugs during her pregnancy. The following also increase a baby's risk for SIDS:

  • Being placed on his stomach or side to sleep
  • Fluffy or soft bedding in the crib
  • Getting too hot when he sleeps, such as from wearing too much clothing or a high room temperature
  • Sharing a bed with others
  • Living with or being cared for by people who smoke

How should I put my baby down to sleep?

It is very important to lay your baby down to sleep in safe surroundings. This can greatly reduce his risk for SIDS. Tell grandparents, babysitters, and anyone else who cares for your baby the following rules:

  • Put your baby on his back to sleep. Do this every time he sleeps (naps and at night). Do this even if he sleeps more soundly on his stomach or on his side. Your baby is less likely to choke on spit-up or vomit if he sleeps on his back.
  • Put your baby on a firm, flat surface to sleep. Your baby should sleep in a crib, bassinet, or cradle that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Do not let him sleep on pillows, waterbeds, soft mattresses, quilts, beanbags, or other soft surfaces. Move him to his bed if he falls asleep in a car seat, stroller, or swing. He may change positions in a sitting device and not be able to breathe well.
  • Put your baby in his own bed. A crib or bassinet in your room, near your bed, is the safest place for your baby to sleep. Never let him sleep in bed with you. Never let him sleep on a couch or recliner.
  • Do not leave soft objects or loose bedding in his crib. His bed should contain only a mattress covered with a fitted bottom sheet. Use a sheet that is made for the mattress. Do not put pillows, bumpers, comforters, or stuffed animals in his bed. Dress your baby in a sleep sack or other sleep clothing before you put him down to sleep. Avoid loose blankets. If you must use a blanket, tuck it around the mattress.
  • Do not let your baby get too hot. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult. Never dress him in more than 1 layer more than you would wear. Do not cover his face or head while he sleeps. Your baby is too hot if he is sweating or his chest feels hot.
  • Do not raise the head of his bed. Your baby could slide or roll into a position that makes it hard for him to breathe.

What else can I do to decrease the risk of SIDS?

  • Breastfeed your baby. Always put your baby back in his own bed after you breastfeed him at night.
  • Give him a pacifier when you put him down to sleep. Do not put it back in his mouth if it falls out after he is asleep. Do not attach the pacifier to a string. If your baby rejects the pacifier, do not force him to take it. If your baby breastfeeds, wait until he is breastfeeding well or is 1 month old before you offer a pacifier.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around your baby. Also do not let anyone smoke in your home or car. The smoke gets into your furniture and clothing, and this means your baby is breathing smoke. This increases his risk for SIDS.
  • Do not buy products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Examples are sleep wedges and sleep positioners. There is no evidence that these products are safe.

What if my baby's head is flat from sleeping on his back?

The back of your baby's head may be flat for a period of time. His head will round out as he gets older. He will become able to hold his head up and spend less time on his back. The following may help limit the amount of pressure that is placed on the back of your baby's head:

  • Alternate the direction his face is turned when you lay him in his bed. His flat spot will most likely get better or go away when he begins to sit up and crawl.
  • Give him tummy time. Place your baby on his tummy daily when he is awake and you are able to watch him closely. This helps prevent a flat spot and also strengthens his head, neck, and arm muscles. Do not leave the room when he is on his tummy.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Sudden and Unexpected Infant/Child Death and Pregnancy Loss Resource Center
    2115 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Ste 601
    Washington , DC 20007
    Phone: 1- 202 - 687-7466
    Web Address:
  • First Candle
    1314 Bedford Avenue, Suite 210
    Baltimore , MD 21208
    Phone: 1- 800 - 221-7437
    Web Address:
  • Cribs for Kids
    810 River Avenue, Suite 250, Riverfront Place
    Pittsburgh , PA 15212
    Phone: 1- 888 - 721-2742
    Web Address:

When should I contact my baby's pediatrician?

  • You have questions or concerns about SIDS prevention.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.