How Can I Protect My Baby From Dying From SIDS?

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old. SIDS is sometimes called “crib death” because the infants often die in their cribs. What makes SIDS so frightening is that it strikes babies who seem to have nothing wrong with them. To do everything we can to prevent this, Westchester Health offer this very informative blog (excerpted here) by Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group.

Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

Is your baby at risk of SIDS? Here’s how to know.

Physical factors that can increase an infant’s risk of SIDS:

  1. Brain abnormalities. Some infants are born with problems that make them more likely to die of SIDS. It is believed that the portion of the brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep does not work properly.
  2. Low birth weight. Premature birth or being part of a multiple birth increases the likelihood that a baby’s brain doesn’t mature completely, resulting in less control over such automatic processes as breathing and heart rate.
  3. Respiratory infection. Many infants who died of SIDS had recently had a cold, which may contribute to breathing problems.
  4. Boys are more likely to die of SIDS.
  5. Infants are most vulnerable during the 2nd and 3rd months of life.
  6. For reasons we don’t understand, African-American, American Indian and Alaska Native infants are more likely to develop SIDS.
  7. Family history. Babies who’ve had siblings or cousins die of SIDS are at higher risk themselves.
  8. Secondhand smoke. Babies who live with smokers have a higher risk of SIDS.

Environmental factors that can increase an infant’s risk of SIDS:

  1. Sleeping on stomach or side. Babies who are placed on their stomachs or sides to sleep may have more difficulty breathing than those placed on their backs.
  2. Sleeping on a soft surface. Lying face down on a fluffy comforter or a waterbed can block an infant’s airway. Draping a blanket over a baby’s head also is risky.
  3. Sleeping with parents. While the risk of SIDS is lowered if an infant sleeps in the same room as his or her parents, the risk increases if the baby sleeps in the same bed, partly because there are more soft surfaces to impair breathing.

Maternal risk factors that can increase an infant’s risk of SIDS:

The mother:

  1. Is younger than 20
  2. Smokes cigarettes
  3. Uses drugs or alcohol
  4. Has inadequate prenatal care

10 things that can reduce the likelihood of your baby dying from SIDS

  1. Place your baby to sleep on his/her back, every time. Babies up to 1 year of age should always be placed on their backs to sleep during naps and at night. However, if your baby has rolled from his back to his side or stomach on his own, he can be left in that position if he is already able to roll from tummy to back and back to tummy. If your baby falls asleep in a car safety seat, stroller, swing, infant carrier or infant sling he/she should be moved to a firm sleep surface as soon as possible.
  2. Place your baby to sleep on a firm sleep surface. Your crib, bassinet, portable crib or play yard should meet current safety standards. Check to make sure the product has not been recalled. Do not use a crib that is broken or missing parts, or that has drop-side rails. Cover the mattress that comes with the product with a fitted sheet. Do not put blankets or pillows between the mattress and the fitted sheet. Most important: Never put your baby to sleep on a chair, sofa, water bed, cushion or sheepskin. For more information about crib safety standards, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at
  3. Keep soft objects, loose bedding or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation or strangulation out of the crib. Pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, bumper pads and stuffed toys can cause your baby to suffocate so keep them out of the crib.
  4. Place your baby to sleep in the same room where you sleep but not the same bed. Babies who sleep in the same bed as their parents are at greater risk of SIDS, suffocation or strangulation. Parents can roll onto babies during sleep or babies can get tangled in the sheets or blankets.
  5. Breastfeed as much and for as long as you can. Studies show that breastfeeding your baby can help reduce the risk of SIDS.
  6. Keep up with all well-baby visits. Your baby needs important immunizations and other crucial health checks at regularly scheduled well-baby visits.
  7. Don’t smoke around your baby and keep him/her away from smokers and places where people smoke. If you smoke, quit. Plus, don’t allow anyone to smoke near your baby, even if he/she is outside.
  8. Don’t let your baby get too hot. Keep the room where your baby sleeps at a comfortable temperature. In general, dress your baby in no more than one extra layer than you would wear. If you are worried that your baby is cold, dress him/her in clothing designed to keep babies warm but that doesn’t cover their heads.
  9. Offer a pacifier at naptime and bedtime. Studies show that this helps reduce the risk of SIDS.
  10. Do not use products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Products such as wedges, positioners, special mattresses and specialized sleep surfaces have not been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. In addition, some infants have suffocated while using these products.

If you are worried about SIDS, please come see us.

At Westchester Health, one of our top priorities is to do everything we can to prevent SIDS. If you’re concerned about the possibility of your baby succumbing to SIDS, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. From our years of experience with all kinds of babies, we have advice, guidance and support to give you information and more importantly, peace of mind. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.

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