Safe Sleeping and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrom (SIDS)

Many infant deaths involve unsafe sleeping environments and locations. Parents and caregivers may be familiar with the Back to Sleep program that instructs parents to always place infants on their backs for sleeping as a precaution against SIDS, the unexplained death of an infant in the first year of life. No one knows what causes SIDS, but there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths. There is some evidence that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of SIDS.  

Sleeping baby

Be sure to discuss these procedures with everyone who is taking care of your baby:

Always place your baby on his back to sleep, even for naps. 

  • Place your baby on a firm mattress, such as in a safety-approved crib.
  • Remove bumper pads and soft, fluffy bedding, pillows and stuffed toys from your baby’s sleep area.
  • Make sure your baby’s head and face remain uncovered during sleep.
  • Place your baby’s crib in the same room where you sleep, but do not place your baby in the same bed with you.
  • Make sure your baby sleeps alone, not in the bed or on the sofa with other children or adults.
  • Do NOT use blankets or comforters under your baby.
  • Do NOT let your baby sleep on a waterbed, sheepskin, pillow or other soft material.
  • Do NOT let your baby get too warm during sleep.
  • Do NOT allow smoking around your baby.
  • Have people wash their hands before holding or playing with your baby. Respiratory infections increase the SIDS rate.
  • Talk to child care providers, grandparents, babysitters and all caregivers about SIDS risk.

Tummy time

Baby resting on its tummyExperts agree you should never put your baby to bed on his tummy. They also agree that supervised tummy time, beginning within the first month after birth, is important to a baby’s physical development. Strong neck and upper back muscles allow babies to control their head movements. So encourage the development of head control by giving your infant a lot of supervised time on his stomach while he’s awake. Tummy time also seems to promote a well-shaped head that has fewer flat spots. Five or 10 minutes, a couple of times a day during supervised play breaks should do it. Your lap is a good tummy time location, as is any smooth, flat surface with no loose items like toys, blankets or pillows nearby that could interfere with breathing. 

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