11 Must-Do Tips for Reducing the Risk of SIDS

Jeanne Sager | Jun 8, 2013 Baby
11 Must-Do Tips for Reducing the Risk of SIDS
Image: iStock.com/Yagi-Studio

baby sleeping

Of all the things that scared me when my daughter was a baby -- and trust me, there were many -- SIDS was the one monster I just couldn't shake. I would find myself waking in the middle of the night with a start, unable to go back to sleep until I'd snuck into her nearby nursery and checked to make sure she was still breathing. Call me neurotic. Or just call me a parent.


SIDS is called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome for a reason -- because we don't know when it's coming. Nothing could be more terrifying.

But there is good news for parents. These days, we actually know how to reduce the risk of SIDS.

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The more doctors look at SIDS cases, the more they know about risk factors. And the more they know about risk factors, the more power we have to NOT put our kids at risk.

If you want any chance of getting a good night's sleep, you're going to want to check everything off this list. Go ahead, some of them might surprise you ...

tips reduce sids risk

  • Use a Pacifier


    Image via WarmSleepy/Flickr

    Pacifiers have a bad -- and not necessarily fair -- reputation. The truth is, these little suckers (pun very much intended) have been found to do great things for kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics now suggess pacifier use throughout the first year because they "help keep vulnerable infants from slumbering too deeply to rouse themselves."


  • Back to Sleep


    Image via -Jerome-/Flickr

    I don't care WHAT your grandmother says about babies being perfectly comfy sleeping on their tummies. Since 1994, when the Back to Sleep Campaign (now called the Safe to Sleep campaign) began, SIDS rates in America have dropped 50 percent. The numbers don't lie, folks! Put your baby to sleep on his or her back. It's the best way.

  • Keep Vaccines Up to Date


    Image via Adrian Clark/Flickr

    Studies have shown that many babies who die from SIDS often suffered from an infection before they died, leading the American Academy of Pediatrics to suggest that up-to-date vaccines, which prevent infection, could also prevent crib death.

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  • Swaddle


    Image by Jeanne Sager

    A swaddled baby tends to stay in one place, and provided a swaddled baby is laid on his or her back, some studies show swaddling can reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 30 percent!

    You should stop swaddling when baby is able to kick the blankets loose -- loose blankets in a crib become a suffocation hazard.

  • Use a Sleep Sack


    Image via marie_claire_camp/Flickr

    So your baby is too big to be swaddled, and you're worried he or she will get cold without a blanket? That's what sleep sacks were invented for. These comfy bags wrap around your baby's body and stay there all through the night ... so they can't accidentally knock the blanket loose and end up suffocating.

  • Avoid Crib Bumpers


    Image via boujiandnouna/Flickr

    Crib bumpers are adorable ... and completely unsafe. So unsafe, in fact, that they're actually illegal in some parts of the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics and First Candle both warn that these soft linings for cribs and bassinets up the risk of SIDS as they can strangle or suffocate an infant.

  • Room In ... But Don't Bed Share


    Image via jencu/Flickr

    Sharing a room with your infant makes it easier to monitor them, which the American Academy of Pediatrics supports. They frown, however on bed-sharing which has been found to increase the risk of crib death by five times.

  • Breastfeed


    Image via Mothering Touch/Flickr

    When World Health Organization researchers looked at the affect breastfeeding had on infant death, the numbers were staggering. The rate of SIDS was 60 percent lower among infants who had any amount of breastfeeding compared to those who didn't breastfeed, and more than 70 percent lower in infants that been breastfed exclusively - without any formula - for any period of time!

  • Buy a Good Mattress


    Image via jencu/Flickr

    Yes, this matters. You don't want to lay baby down on something too soft such as a pillow. You want a firm mattress (not something they can bury their face in), and one that fits well inside the crib or bassinet -- rather than a mattress that leaves wide gaps baby can stick his or her face in.

  • Quit Smoking


    Image via Fried Dough/Flickr

    It isn't enough to just quit smoking while you're pregnant. The affects of secondhand smoke on babies is very real, and very dangerous.

    According to studies, infants who die from SIDS tend to have higher concentrations of nicotine in their lungs and higher levels of cotinine (a biological marker for secondhand smoke exposure) than infants who die from other causes. There are also chemicals in secondhand smoke that the CDC notes appear to affect the brain in ways that interfere with its regulation of infants' breathing.

  • Go Easy on the Clothing


    Image by Jeanne Sager

    It's so tempting to bundle baby up, but the National Institutes of Health warn against going overboard. Overheating has been linked to SIDS, so they suggest using light clothing and keeping the thermostat at a temperature that's comfortable for the adults in the home.


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