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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Clinical Trials  |  Add a link  |  Regulations  |  Discussion Board  |  Ask the Nurse | Last Update January 1st. 2009  |  About FDA.COM  | Media Kit


What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant younger than one year old.

It is the leading cause of death in children between one month and one year of age.  Most SIDS deaths happen when babies are between 2 months and 4 months of age.

How can I reduce the SIDS risk?
Health care providers don’t know what exactly causes SIDS, but they do know certain things can help reduce the risk of SIDS:
  • Always place babies on their backs to sleep – Babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides.  Placing your baby on his or her back to sleep is the number one way to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Use the back sleep position every time – Babies who usually sleep on their backs but who are then placed on their stomachs, like for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS.  So it is important for babies to sleep on their backs every time, for naps and at night.
  • Place your baby on a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved* crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet - Never place a baby to sleep on a pillow, quilt, sheepskin, or other soft surface.
  • Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area – Don’t use pillows, blankets, quilts, sheepskins, or pillow-like bumpers in your baby’s sleep area.  Keep all items away from the baby’s face.
  • Avoid letting your baby overheat during sleep – Dress your baby in light sleep clothing and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
  • Think about using a clean, dry pacifier when placing your baby down to sleep, but don’t force the baby to take it.  (If you’re breastfeeding, wait until your child is 1 month old, or is used to breastfeeding before using a pacifier.)

* For more information on crib safety, visit http://www.cpsc.gov.

The NICHD’s publication Safe Sleep for Your Baby: Reduce the Risk of SIDS gives a complete list of ways to reduce the risk of SIDS.

What does a safe sleep environment look like?
To learn more about safe sleep environment and reducing the risk of SIDS, check out the NICHD publication Reduce the Risk of SIDS:  What does a safe sleep environment look like? (PDF - 190 KB)

What groups are most at risk for SIDS?
  • Babies who are placed to sleep on their stomachs or sides are at higher risk for SIDS than babies who are placed on their backs to sleep.
  • African American babies are more than two times as likely to die of SIDS as white babies.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native babies are nearly three times as likely to die of SIDS as white babies.
Will my baby develop flat spots on his or her head from back sleeping?
For the most part, flat spots on a baby’s head go away a few months after the baby learns to sit up.  There are other ways to reduce the chance that flat spots will develop on your baby’s head, such as:
  • Providing Tummy Time when your baby is awake and someone is watching.  Tummy Time not only helps prevent flat spots, but it also helps a baby’s head, neck, and shoulder muscles get stronger.

Tummy Time

  • Change the direction that your baby faces in the crib from week to week, so he or she is not always lying on the same part of the head. 
  • Avoid too much time in car seats, carriers, and bouncers and hold the baby upright often during the day.
Where can I get more information about SIDS?


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