October is SIDS Awareness Month.
Whether you are a new parent or a seasoned parent, bringing home a baby can be scary. You are expected to suddenly know how to keep this precious, adorable, little human alive. You may find yourself standing over your baby, staring to see if they are breathing. Maybe even with your hand under their nose to make sure you feel air. One way to give yourself some peace of mind and reassurance is to practice safe sleep so you can rest assured knowing that you have your baby sleeping in the safest way possible.
Practicing safe sleep is important for every child, particularly for children one year and younger. Safe sleep means putting your baby down to sleep in ways that can help protect and keep them safe from dangers like choking and suffocation.
Practicing safe sleep can reduce the risk of an accidental, preventable death from Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome (SUIDS) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome (SUIDS)
The umbrella term for the sudden and unexpected death of a baby less than 1-year-old in which the cause was not obvious before investigation. These deaths often happen during sleep or in the baby’s sleep area. Various causes may be suffocation, asphyxia, entrapment, or trauma.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
The cause of death remains unexplained after a thorough investigation, the death will be ruled as SIDS. SIDS is the unexplained death that occurs when an otherwise healthy baby dies unexpectedly usually during sleep of a seemingly health baby ONE year or younger.
5 SIDS & SUIDS FACTS
It is the leading cause of death among infants between newborn and age of one.
More than 90% of SIDS happen in the first six-months.
In 2020, there were about 1,389 deaths due to SIDS, about 1,062 deaths due to unknown causes, and about 905 deaths due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. (per CDC)
About 3,400 babies in the United States die suddenly and unexpectedly each year.(per CDC)
SIDS accounts for 38-42% of baby deaths annually.
HOW DO I PRACTICE SAFE SLEEP WITH MY BABY?
Keep baby safe + reduce the risk of SIDS by following the ABC’s of Safe Sleep. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends putting baby down to sleep on their back for every sleep and following the ABC’s of Safe Sleep:
A - Alone
B- on Back
C- in the Crib
DO'S AND DON'TS OF PRACTICING SAFE SLEEP
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS/SUIDS, and the exact cause of SIDS is still unknown, research has identified several risk factors and preventive measures that can help reduce the risk. Always consult with your pediatrician for the most up-to-date and personalized advice.
DO always place your baby on their back for sleep, for naps and at night. This is the most important measure to reduce the risk of SIDS. When babies sleep face down, they may re-breathe exhaled carbon dioxide.
DO put baby down on a flat, firm, horizontal mattress. Place your baby on a firm mattress, covered with a tight-fitted sheet. Safe sleep spaces are a crib, portable crib, bassinet, playpen, or pack ‘n play. with a firm mattress and tightly fitted sheet. Use only the mattress made for your baby’s crib. It should fit snuggly and there should be no gaps between the crib and mattress. The mattress should not indent or cave to your hand or baby’s body.
DO have baby sleep alone in the sleep space. Avoid loose bedding, pillows, stuffed animals, mobiles, and bumper pads in the crib. Skin-to-skin is highly valuable during the newborn phase but should be reserved for awake time. If you are at all drowsy, please baby in their own safe sleep space.
DO share a room, not a sleep surface. Put baby in their own safe sleep space, a crib or bassinet. Room-sharing is when babies are in the same room as caregivers. Bed-sharing or surface-sharing or co-sleeping is when baby shares the same sleep surface with the caregiver. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that baby sleeps in the same room as the caregiver or parent for at least the first six months of baby’s life. AAP recommends having the baby nearby for sleep to help reduce the risk of SIDS.
DO always put baby into a safe sleep space on her back for the first year. Infants who can roll from supine (back) to prone (belly) and from belly to back again can be allowed to remain in the sleep position that they assume; no need to flip them back over. Even if baby can roll, they should always be put down on their back upon entering the sleep space until at least one year of age.
DO stop swaddling once baby shows signs of rolling. Once baby exhibits signs of rolling, swaddling is no longer safe. Consider using a sleep sack like kyte to keep baby warm and prevent climbing. A sleeping swaddle or wearable blanket (such as a sleep sack) is permitted once baby rolls but not a loose blanket.
DO provide a safe sleep environment. On top of the ABC’s of safe sleep measures, baby’s sleep space should be free from hazards such as loose/dangling cords, electric wires, window cords, plastic bags, and other objects that may present a strangulation risk. Make sure the room is dark and the crib or bassinet meets safety standards (for example, the crib should be no older than 10 years old and slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart). If parts are MIA or broken, toss the crib! Learn more on the AAP’s safe sleep guidelines as of 2022.
Do check safety standards. Check that the crib bassinet, portable crib or play yard meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). You can also check the CPSC website to make sure your sleep spaces and other baby gear have not been recalled.
DO avoid overheating and dress baby in a safe and appropriate manner. Dress your baby in light, breathable, comfortable clothing and keep the room temperature cool around 68-72F, year-round. Avoid overdressing or over-bundling. The general rule is to dress baby in one layer more than you are wearing. A sleeping swaddle or wearable blanket (such as a sleep sack) is permitted but not a loose blanket. Baby should not wear hats to sleep once home from the hospital. Learn more about what baby should wear.
Do offer a Pacifier: Consider offering a pacifier at naptime and bedtime. This has been associated with a reduced risk of SIDS and is great for self-soothing.
Do Breastfeed: If you are able and willing, breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
Do Offer Tummy Time: Encourage supervised tummy time when your baby is awake and alert. This helps strengthen neck and upper body muscles and reduces the risk of torticollis and developing flat spots (positional plagiocephaly) on the head. Parents are encouraged to practice supervised tummy time while awake and for short periods of time beginning soon after hospital discharge, increasing incrementally to at least 15-30 minutes total daily by seven weeks of age.
Rule of thumb: If there is a buckle on it, it isn’t safe for sleeping.
DON’T use sitting devices for routine sleep – things like strollers, car seats, slings, swings or baby carriers. If baby falls asleep in one, move them to a flat sleeping surface as soon as it is practical and safe.
DON’T leave baby to sleep on an unsafe surface. Even if baby is sleeping in a car seat, never leave the car seat on a countertop or couch where it can fall or on a soft surface like a waterbed.
DON’T use any weighted products like swaddles or sleep sacks like NestedBean.
DON’T use sleep positioners. They often are wedges or pillows placed on either side to help keep your baby in place. Things like Boppy and Dock-A-Tot are not safe for baby, even for lounging. The Food and Drug Administration (also called FDA) warns that sleep positioners can cause babies to die because of suffocation even when the adult is present and awake.
DON’T Expose baby to smoking and alcohol/drug use Do not smoke during pregnancy, and keep your baby's environment smoke-free. Avoid exposing your baby to second and thirdhand smoke. Any exposure to baby is a risk.
DON’T use at-home pulse-ox or cardiorespiratory monitors as a way to reduce the risk of SIDS. These products like Owlet monitor a baby’s heart rate and breathing. There is no evidence that the monitors help reduce the risk of SIDS in healthy babies and the FDA has deemed these monitors “not a medical device that gives a false sense of security.”
Here's to being able to Sleep Tight Tonight knowing your little one is sleeping safely!
It's important to remember that these recommendations are designed to reduce the risk of SIDS, but they cannot guarantee prevention. Following safe sleep practices consistently can significantly reduce the risk and create a safer sleep environment for infants. If you have concerns about your baby's sleep or SIDS risk, consult with your pediatrician or healthcare provider for guidance.
Safe sleep is the foundation of healthy sleep habits. If your child is struggling with sleep and you'd like something to change, let’s create a custom plan together for your little one. My one-on-one support will help make sleep easy. Schedule your FREE 15-minute Sleep Assessment Call today.
Caryn Shender | Certified Pediatric Sleep Specialist and Coach | Founder of Sleep Tight Tonight
I am a proud mom, certified pediatric sleep specialist and coach, safe sleep ambassador, and author of My Scar is Beautiful. I am passionate about and committed to helping families turn sleepless nights into easy, peaceful nights and sweet dreams. Being a parent is hard. Being an exhausted parent is next to impossible. Together, we’ll make sleep easy.