How to Lower Your Baby’s Risk of Unexplained Death (SIDS)

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death or cot death, is the unexpected and unexplained death of an otherwise healthy infant. While the number of SIDS cases has decreased since the 1990s, there is still a significant amount of babies dying from SIDS every year. There are important methods to help reduce your baby’s risk of dying from SIDS.

Key takeaways:
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    SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an infant. It can happen at any time, but most often occurs when a baby is sleeping.
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    SUID (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death) is the death of an infant due to SIDS, suffocation or strangulation in bed, or an unknown cause. SIDS makes up almost half of these deaths.
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    Secondhand smoke increases your baby’s risk of SIDS.
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    Practicing safe sleep with your baby helps reduce the risk of death.

According to the CDC, there are almost 3,400 infant deaths per year in the United States resulting from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). While these deaths can occur at any time during the day, they most often occur while a baby is sleeping.

SUID includes infant deaths from SIDS, accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed and unknown causes. The percentage of SUID deaths is broken down as:

  • SIDS - 41% of infant deaths
  • Unknown causes - 32%
  • Accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed - 27%

In 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) initiated the Back to Sleep Campaign, now known as the Safe to Sleep Campaign to aid in the prevention of SUID cases. Following the campaign, the rate of SUID deaths decreased by over 50%.

How to Lower Your Baby’s Risk of SIDS

The AAP has a list of recommendations to create a safe sleep environment. These practices play a key role in prevention:

  • ALWAYS place your baby on their back to sleep.
  • NEVER sleep with your baby. Place a crib or bassinet next to your bed, and avoid falling asleep with your baby in your bed.
  • Use a firm mattress with a fitted sheet that is laid flat in the crib.
  • Remove ALL pillows, blankets, top sheets, stuffed animals/toys, and crib bumpers.
  • If you are concerned about your baby getting cold during the night, you can dress the baby in layers or place them in a sleep sack, but be careful NOT to overheat your baby.
  • There should be nothing covering your baby’s head or face, including when the baby is in a car seat.
  • Tummy time should only be performed while the baby is awake.
  • Stop swaddling your baby once they can roll over on their own.
  • Do not smoke around your baby. Secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS.

Always follow the AAP’s recommendations for safe sleep practices. Place your baby on its back to sleep and in its empty crib or bassinet. Not following these guidelines can lead to the unintentional death of your baby. There is the possibility of a parent smothering their baby, or a pillow or blanket could end up covering the baby’s face, suffocating them. It is better to be safe than sorry. Create safe sleeping habits for your child because their life depends on it.