How to Reduce the Risk/Keep Baby Safe

Healthy babies should sleep on their backs

One of the most important things you can do to help reduce the risk of SIDS is to put your healthy baby on his or her back to sleep. Do this when your baby is being put down for a nap or to bed for the night. Talk to everyone who cares for your baby –grandparents, child care providers, babysitters – about the importance of placing your baby on his back for sleep. Since the beginning of this "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1994, the SIDS rate in the United States has dropped by more than 50%.

As baby gets older, continue to place him on his back when you lay him down for sleep. When baby starts rolling over, there is no need to constantly re-position him onto his back while he sleeps. This is a good time to look at where baby is sleeping to make sure safe sleep practices are still being followed. Check that baby is sleeping in a safety approved crib. Make sure there are no pillows, fluffy bedding, stuffed toys or pillow-like bumpers in the crib.

Check with your nurse or doctor

Most babies should sleep on their backs. But a few babies have health conditions requiring them to sleep on their tummies. If your baby was born with a birth defect, or has a breathing, lung or heart problem, be sure to talk to a doctor or a nurse about which sleep position is best for your baby.

Some parents worry that their baby may choke or spit-up vomit when back sleeping. There is no evidence that sleeping on the back causes choking. Millions of babies around the world now sleep on their backs and doctors have not found an increase in choking or other problems.

Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have questions about your baby's sleep position.

Follow the Safe Sleep Top 10

  1. Always place baby on his or her back for naps and at night.
  2. Place baby on a firm sleep surface, such as on a safety approved crib and mattress, covered by a fitted sheet. Never place baby to sleep on pillows, quilts, sheepskin, or other soft surfaces.
  3. Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of baby's sleep area. Don't use pillows, blankets, quilts, sheepskins or pillow-like crib bumpers in your baby's sleep area and keep all items away from baby's face.
  4. Do not allow smoking around your baby. Don't smoke before or after the birth of your baby. Don't let others smoke around baby. Babies and young children exposed to smoke have more colds and other diseases, as well as an increased risk of SIDS.
  5. Keep your baby's sleep area close to, but separate from where you or others sleep. Your baby should not sleep in a bed or on a couch or armchair with adults or other children. Baby can sleep in the same room as you. If you bring baby to bed to breastfeed put baby back in a separate sleep area such as a bassinet or crib when finished.
  6. Think about using a clean, dry pacifier when placing your infant down to sleep but don't force baby to take it. If you are breastfeeding, wait until baby is one month old or is used to breastfeeding before offering a pacifier.
  7. Do not let your baby overheat during sleep. Dress baby in light sleep clothing. Keep room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
  8. Avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Most have not been tested for effectiveness or safety. Do not use wedges or positioners to prop your baby or to keep him on his back.
  9. Do not use home monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you have questions about using monitors for other conditions talk to your health care provider.
  10. Reduce the chance that flat spots will develop on your baby's head. Place baby on his tummy when he is awake and someone is watching. Avoid too much time in car seats, carriers and bouncers. Learn more about tummy time.

Make a safe place for baby to sleep

Where baby sleeps is important too. The safest place for baby to sleep is on his back in his own safety approved crib with a firm mattress covered by a tight fitting sheet. Remove fluffy bedding, pillows, or stuffed toys from baby's sleep area. Research has shown that such things can pose a risk for suffocation as well as SIDS. See what a safe sleep environment looks like.

Babies sleeping either alone or with adults or children in an adult bed or on a sofa have died when they become wedged between sofa cushions, between the mattress and another object or a wall, or trapped under a sleeping child or adult.

Consumer Product Safety Commission advises that children under 2 years old should not be placed on adult beds to sleep because of the danger it poses. This includes beds or mattresses pushed against a wall.

Safe and asleep in a crib of their own

Keep your baby's sleep areas close to, but separate from, where you and others sleep. If you want baby near during the night, you can put a crib or bassinet in your room, next to your bed. Research studies have suggested that this sleep arrangement may further reduce the risk of SIDS. Download a two-page brochure further explains how a crib is the safest place for your baby to sleep (PDF).

Remember to follow these same safe sleep practices when your baby or toddler sleeps away from home or when using porta-cribs or pak and plays.

Tummy time is important

Babies, like adults, should move and be in different positions throughout their day. Limit use of car seats, infant carriers, and infant swings etc. Use tummy time for play. Place baby on her stomach when she is awake and being supervised. Tummy time strengthens neck and shoulder muscles, encourages motor development, and helps baby learn to use both sides of his body. These are important skills to build as baby continues to grow and develop physically, emotionally, and socially. Remember back to sleep, tummy to play.

Enjoy your baby! Remember, most babies are born healthy and most stay that way. Don't let the fear of SIDS spoil your joy and enjoyment of having a new baby.

This information is from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the American Academy of Pediatricians, First Candle/SIDS Alliance, and the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs.

See our page that provides several brochures with information about safe sleep for your baby. To request a free copy of a brochure, call the Minnesota SID Center at (1 800) 732-3812 or send us a brochure order form.