The ABC’s of Safe Sleep for your Baby: Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

CathySzymanskiCathy Szymanski, MSN, NNP-BC
Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center
BirthCare Center

Safe sleep is such an important topic when it comes to taking care of our babies. But unfortunately, this is an area that causes much confusion for parents. Let’s take a look at the current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Placing all healthy babies on their back for sleep is recommended as the simplest and most effective way to lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

SIDS is the unexpected and unexplained death of an otherwise healthy baby under the age of one year. In the United States, SIDS is the leading cause of death in babies over one month of age, with the highest incidence occurring when babies are two to four months old. After that age, SIDS becomes less common.

The incidence increases during the cold weather. African American babies are twice as likely to die of SIDS, while American Indian/Native Alaskan babies are nearly three times more likely to die of SIDS than Caucasian babies. Also, more male babies die of SIDS than female babies.

While there is no single risk factor that will cause an infant to die of SIDS, there are several risk factors that, when combined, may cause an “at-risk” infant to succumb to SIDS. These risk factors include:

  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Little or no prenatal care
  • Young mother (less than 20 years old)
  • Prematurity or low birth weight
  • Overheating of baby
  • Infant sleeping on stomach

Fortunately, the rate of SIDS is less than half what it was when the American Academy of Pediatrics started its “Back to Sleep” campaign in 1992. The American Academy of Pediatrics released additional recommendations to further reduce SIDS. These include:

  1. Use a firm, safety-approved mattress that is covered by a fitted sheet. Never place your baby to sleep on pillows, sheepskins, blankets or other soft surfaces.
  2. Keep all soft objects out of your baby’s sleep area. Do not use pillows or pillow-like crib bumpers. Keep all objects away from your baby’s face and head.
  3. Do not allow smoking around your baby.
  4. Keep your baby’s sleep area close to you, but do not share a bed with your baby. In fact, experts recommend that you put your baby in a crib, bassinet, cradle or bedside sleeper in the same room as you for the first six months.
  5. A clean pacifier is recommended when placing the infant to sleep at bedtime. However, do not force the baby to take it. If breastfeeding, wait to introduce the pacifier until the baby is one month old or used to breastfeeding.
  6. Do not let the baby get overheated. Dress the baby in light sleep clothes instead of a blanket. Maintain the air at a temperature that feels comfortable to you. You may also gently circulate the air with a fan.
  7. Avoid products that state they reduce the risk of SIDS, as most claims are unfounded.
  8. Do not use home monitors unless ordered by your baby’s doctor.
  9. To reduce the chance of your baby developing flat spots on the back of his or her head, provide your baby with supervised “tummy time” during the day. Avoid too much time in carriers, car seats and infant seats.
  10. Always remember that back is best for your baby’s sleep!

Know what to expect when you’re expecting. For more information about childbirth classes, mommy support groups, your pregnancy experience or the BirthCare Center at Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, visit or call (386) 231-3152.