Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the Unexplained Death of a Seemingly Healthy Baby (Under 1 Year of Age) During Sleep. Although the Overall Risk of SIDS is Low, There are Certain Steps That You Can Take to Further Reduce Your Baby’s Risk of Developing It. Get Wise About 10 of These Steps Below:

1. Put Your Baby On His/Her Back to Sleep Until He/She is 1-Year-Old. The Crib Should Be Free of Pillows, Blankets, Stuffed Animals, and Bumpers.

Insider Info: 

  • Although SIDS remains the No. 1 cause of death in babies 1 month to 1 year, the annual SIDS rate has decreased by more than 50% since the AAP started telling parents to put their babies on their backs to sleep (in 1992).1
  • 90% of SIDS cases occur in babies under 6 months.2 You should still continue to put your baby on his/her back to sleep, however, until he/she reaches 1 year of age (to cover the remaining 10% risk).

    PediaTip: Let ALL of your baby’s caregivers know about the “back to sleep” rule (especially those from older generations who were probably told to put their babies on their stomachs to sleep).

    Caveat: There are some rare conditions that prohibit a baby from sleeping on his/her back. If your baby has a major medical problem, ask his/her pediatrician which sleep position is ideal for him/her.

2. Make Sure That Your Baby’s Crib Meets the Current Safety Standards.

The crib should have slats less than 2 and 3/8 inches apart (so your baby’s head can’t fit between them) and the corner posts should be no more than 1/16th inch high (so your baby’s clothing can’t catch on them).

PediaTip: Avoid secondhand and hand-me-down cribs. They’ll save you money but may not be compliant with the current safety regulations. Back in the day, the slats were wider apart and drop-down rails were popular. Both of these features are now considered unsafe.

3. Make Sure That Your Baby’s Bedding is Firm and Snug.

Invest in a firm mattress and a tight-fitting crib sheet. Loose, soft bedding gets the thumbs-down because it can accidentally cover a baby’s face.

4. Offer Your Baby a Pacifier.

Why? Because pacifiers have been found to help prevent SIDS. 

How So? It’s thought that pacifiers either keep the airway open OR the sucking motion reminds babies to breathe.

Reality Check: If the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth, you don’t have to reinsert it. Studies show that pacifiers still have a protective effect (overall) if they fall out (which most do at some point during the night).

5. If You’re a Smoker, Do Your Best to Quit Smoking.

Secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS. If you smoke and you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about it. There are many smoking-cessation resources at your disposal. Examples include the app, Smoke Free, and the hotline 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).

PediaTip: If your partner (or another caregiver) smokes, encourage him/her to quit as well.

6. Say No to Co-Sleeping Under 1 Year of Age.

Family beds are okay after your baby turns 1 (as long as you’re cool with having little feet and arms whacking you in the face all night). Avoid co-sleeping when your baby is under 1 year, though. Why? Because babies have been known to get smothered in family beds (either because of the soft bedding or because a parent accidentally rolls on top of them).

7. Be Mindful of Your Swaddle.

Make sure the swaddle blanket is tucked under your baby’s arms. Otherwise, your baby may accidentally move the blanket over his/her face when he/she lifts up his/her arms.

Caution: You want the swaddle to be tight, but not too tight. Why? Because the hips might not develop properly if the legs are smushed. 


  • Try a sleep sack (aka a wearable blanket) instead of the swaddle.

    PediaWise Pick: the Halo Sleepsack

    Note: Some versions of the sleep sack have a strip of cloth at the back to swaddle the baby as well. A 2-for-1 deal.
  • Consider ditching the swaddle after 8 weeks. At this point, the risks outweigh the benefits.

8. Check the Thermostat.

Well-ventilated rooms help reduce the risk of SIDs. Keep your room at 68°F or cooler and turn on a fan. In addition, try not to over-bundle your baby. Just add one layer more than you’re wearing. 

9. Breastfeed.

Studies show that breastfeeding for any length of time lowers the risk of SIDS.

10. Be Roomies.

The AAP recommends that you share a room with your baby for the first 6 months of life, and ideally up to 1 year of age. Although this isn’t great for the ol’ sex life, it’s been found to reduce the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.3

Bonus Tips

1. Keep Your Baby Up-to-Date on His/Her Immunizations. Recent evidence suggests that vaccines may help protect against SIDS.

2. Give Yourself a Pat on the Back if You Got Regular Prenatal Care. 

Why? Because studies suggest that there’s a lower risk of SIDS in infants whose Moms received consistent prenatal care. Of course, it’s possible that Moms who received regular prenatal care are just more attentive to their babies’ sleep.

3. If Your Baby Was Born Prematurely, Ask the Pediatrician What He/She Recommends Sleep-Wise. For example, if your baby experienced respiratory problems in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (the NICU), he/she may be sent home with an “apnea monitor”-a machine that beeps if there’s a prolonged pause in breathing.

The Bottom Line

SIDS is a scary (yet relatively rare) occurrence in babies under 1 year of age. Follow the tips above to help you minimize your baby’s risk of SIDS. If your baby was born prematurely or has an underlying health condition, ask the pediatrician if there are any additional precautions (specific to his/her case) that you should take to promote safe sleep.