SIDS Prevention: Reducing the Risk

I recently had an old friend call me with the exciting news that she was expecting another baby! I could hear the excitement resonate through the phone as she described the infamous moment she found out about the new little life growing within her. Although she and her husband were ecstatic at the news of a new baby, you could sense a tiny hint of sadness behind their jubilant proclamation. You see, 2 years prior they had lost their first baby to SIDS, otherwise known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. From the moment they found out that their son was coming , their parental instincts began to kick in. They began to plan  for this tiny person’s life. They dreamed about birthdays, soccer games, parties….his future. Naturally they wanted only the best for their child.  When he arrived, to say they were ecstatic was an understatement! To have him here after 9 long months was everything they had longed for. They took him home and couldn’t wait to start their life together. However, sadly those giggles turned to tears when after a few short weeks in a blink of an eye he was taken from them. The only explanation they were given was SIDS. It was devastating.

Two years later the news of this new baby has brought so much  joy in the midst of still some fresh sorrow, but a chance for new beginnings. The chance to again build a family and invest in a future. This new baby is so exciting but they also find themselves fearful about the “What if?” They want to prepare, they want to learn, they want peace of mind…they want facts. Knowledge is power!

SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is every new parent’s biggest fear. Every new parent knows that with a baby comes responsibility, and with responsibility often comes fear of the “What IF?” However sometimes your best advocate for preparation for a new baby is educating yourself on the latest research from valid reliable resources. The AAP or the American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a stand on SIDS and has written the following guidelines to help educate expecting families about reducing the risk.  Below is an excerpt from their statement. To read the full guidelines and policy visit:



  • About 1/5  sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths occur while an infant is in the care of someone other than a parent. Many of these deaths occur when babies who are used to sleeping on their backs at home are placed to sleep on their tummies by another caregiver known as “Unaccustomed tummy sleeping”.
  • Unaccustomed tummy sleeping increases the risk of SIDS. Babies who are used to sleeping on their backs and are placed to sleep on their stomachs are 18 times more likely to die from SIDS

*You can reduce your baby’s risk of dying of SIDS by talking to those who care for your baby, including child care providers, babysitters, family, and friends about the importance of placing your baby to sleep on his back rather then the stomach position

  • SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants between 1 month and 12 months of age
  • SIDS is the most common among infants that are 2-4 months old, however babies are at risk until they are 1 year old.
  • SIDS in NOT caused by immunizations, vomiting or choking


  • Get good prenatal care. During pregnancy, before you even give birth, you can reduce the risk by having regular prenatal visits to help prevent a premature birth or low birth weight infant.
  • Don’t smoke or expose yourself to others’ smoke while pregnant and after the baby is born. If a member of the family smokes they need to go outside to smoke and wear a smoking jacket to prevent smoke from permeating onto the clothing. Second hand smoke can be detrimental to an infants fragile body.
  • Breastfeed your baby if possible at least 6 months, preferably for 1 year of life. Overwhelming research has shown that breastfeeding can greatly reduce the risk because of the increase antibodies and digestive capabilities.
  • Make safe sleep practices a part of your daily life. See below for safe sleep guidelines
  • Have the baby “room in” with you in either a cradle or bassinet that has been approved by the JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) for the first 8 weeks
  • Educate family and friends on “Back to sleep, Tummy to play” or anyone who may care for your baby in your absence. Tummy time is playtime when infants are awake and active and an adult is watching time. Supervised tummy time helps to build strong neck and shoulder muscles allowing the baby to develop normally. However, this is ONLY to be done when the baby is most alert. NEVER place a baby on his/her stomach for sleep.
  • Avoid over heating. Dress the baby in light clothing, one extra layer of clothing then what a comfortable adult is wearing. Avoid heavy blankets. If you notice sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash, and rapid breathing the baby is hot. Remember newborns have a difficult time regulating their body heat and are not able to sweat very well in the first few weeks of life.
  • Don’t cover the baby’s head  with a blanket or other clothing as ongoing research has shown that this  over heating can increase the risk.
  • Keep the room temperature at a range that is comfortable for a lightly clothed adult, generally between 68 degrees and 74 degrees
  • Have air circulating in the room with either a stationary or ceiling fan on low


  • Face up to wake up! Healthy babies sleep safest on their backs, always place a baby to sleep on their back during naps and at bedtime. The side position is not as safe since a baby is more likely to accidentally roll onto their stomach, and therefore is not recommended.
  • Remove all bumper pads, sleep positioners, blankets, comforters, pillows, toys or stuffed animals, and sleep wedges. Recently the FDA has found sleep positioners and wedges to be unsafe and have since been taken off the market. For the complete FDA Finding click here: Below is a direct quote from the FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner and pediatrician Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, MD

“To date, there is no scientifically sound evidence that infant sleep positioners prevent SIDS. We want to make sure parents, health care professionals, and childcare providers understand the potential risk of suffocation and stop using infant sleep positioners. ”

  • The only thing that should be in the bed is the baby on a firm mattress
  • Never place babies to sleep on an adult bed, chair, sofa, water bed, or cushions

New research is being done by, Dr. Jim Sprott, OBE, a New Zealand scientist and chemist, about the safety of the crib mattress in itself. There is a theory that is quickly being proven with ongoing research, that over time a toxic gas can develop within the mattress due to the excessive chemicals used within the mattress for fire retardant and waterproofing purposes. A fungus that commonly grows in bedding can interact with these chemicals to create poisonous gases. Although this theory has not been proven nor disproved; the research findings are ongoing and the evidence is quite astonishing. The full findings of Dr. Sprott’s research  is listed in this link.  Dr. Sprott’s recommendation is to get a new mattress, preferable an organic mattress with each child or to have the present mattress wrapped with an approved “babe safe” mattress cover. For more information on mattress wrapping visit :

Talk to your pediatrician about further steps you can take to reduce your child’s risk with SIDS. The partnership between parents and their care givers can result in a healthy, happy, productive future for every child.  FOr further information see the following resources:

Healthy Child Care America

Healthy Kids, Healthy Care

National Institute for Child and the Human Development Back to Sleep Campaign

First Candle/SIDS Alliance

Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs

National SIDS and Infant Death Resource Center

Copyright© 2011 Danielle Gauss,IBCLC – All Rights Reserved.

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