Safe Infant Sleep
Help Your Baby Sleep Safely
Thankfully infant deaths are uncommon. However, the U.S. infant mortality rate is high compared to other developed nations around the world, and many of these deaths are preventable.
The leading causes of death for children between 1-12 months of age fall into a category called sudden unexpected infant death (SUID). This category includes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and asphyxia (suffocation). In the U.S., approximately 3,500 babies die because of SUID-related causes each year, usually during sleep.
In recent years, similar risk factors have emerged for all types of SUID, largely related to sleep environment. Help keep babies safe by focusing on the ABCs of Safe Sleep: babies sleep safest when they are alone, on their back, and in a safe crib.
Tips for Safe Sleep
Following these recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) can reduce your baby’s risk of SUID:
- Place baby on their back every time they sleep. This includes naps and at nighttime
- Use a firm, flat, non-inclined sleep surface — Examples include a crib, bassinet or Pack ’n Play with just a tightly fitted sheet. Do not allow baby to sleep on an adult bed, couch, swing or inclined sitting device. If they fall asleep in their car seat during travel, take them out as soon as you arrive.
- Keep soft objects away from baby’s sleep area. Remove loose bedding, bumpers, pillows, pillow-like toys, quilts, comforters, mattress toppers, fur-like materials and other similar items.
- Room-share, but don’t bed-share. Keep baby’s crib or bassinet in their parents’ room for at least the first six months. But bringing them into your bed is not recommended under any circumstances as it significantly increases baby’s risk of dying from SIDS or suffocation.
- Dress baby in layers for warmth. Aim for one more layer than you need at that temperature — a wearable blanket, sleep sack or pajamas serves as a good top layer. Leave off the hat, as it can cause them to become too hot. If baby is sweating, their skin is flushed or their chest feels hot, remove layers so they can cool down, as overheating is a risk factor for SIDS. Do not use weighted sleep sacks.
- If you choose to swaddle, do it safely. Swaddle only to shoulder level, snug at the chest but loose at the hips. Stop swaddling when baby shows signs they are ready to roll over from back to tummy (likely by 2-3 months).
- Offer a pacifier while baby is falling asleep. Breastfeeding babies can wait until they are fully accustomed to nursing before introducing a pacifier (usually by 3-4 weeks).
- Breastfeed for as long as possible. Human milk reduces the risk of SIDS and many other health problems.
- Supervised awake “tummy time” is important to strengthen their upper body and minimize flattening on the back of the head. Begin soon after hospital discharge and incrementally work up to 15-30 minutes total per day by the time the baby is 7 weeks.
- Attend all of your prenatal care visits.
- Keep your child’s immunizationsup to date. Recent studies show that immunizations have a protective effect against SIDS, in addition to preventing infectious disease.
- Avoid smoke and nicotine exposure (including vaping) during and after pregnancy. For help quitting, go to smokefree.gov.
- Avoid alcohol, marijuana, opioids and illicit drug use during and after pregnancy.
- Avoid devices marketed to reduce SIDS. This includes wedges, positioners, special sleep surfaces and home cardiorespiratory monitors. There is no evidence that they are safe or effective.