11 Easy Tips to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

Sudden Infant Dead Syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death, or cot death – is probably one of the most terrifying ideas to any parents or parent-to-be. For this reason, it is a highly researched subject so we now know things that we can do to help reduce the risk of SIDS.

I put together this list of 11 things you can do to help reduce the risk of SIDS based on the American Academy of Pediatrics statistics, research, and guidelines. Also, stay to the end to see which popular products are marketed towards anxious parents to prevent SIDS but do not actually work.

1. Always place your baby on their back to sleep.

Babies should be placed on their backs to sleep up until they are one year of age. As your baby learns to roll back and forth, they may be able to roll onto their sides or onto their belly even when you place them on their back.

If they already know how to readily roll into their backs from these positions, you don’t have to go and place them on their backs again every time they roll. That is, if your baby can roll in all directions already, you should put them on their back to sleep, but if they roll on their own to another position (on their sides or tummy), you may leave them like that.

2. Put your baby on a firm surface.

The safest place for babies to sleep is on a firm surface. Firm surfaces are safer because they reduce the risk of suffocation in case the baby somehow ends up facing that surface. Fluffier surfaces can mold to the baby’s face without leaving any space to breathe.

Surfaces that are firm and safe cribs, bassinets, portable cribs, and play yards. They are safe as long as they meet current safety standards, so be sure to check before using them for your baby. Check that your baby products don’t have safety recalls!

If Baby falls asleep initially on a car safety seat, stroller, carrier, swing or sling, they should be moved to a firm flat surface as soon as possible. Don’t put your baby to sleep on a sofa, water bed, cushion or armchair. These surfaces are not firm enough (and some may expose to falls). Speaking of falls, make sure not to fall asleep on an armchair or sofa while holding a baby!

3. Swaddle to sleep only when they can’t roll.

Most babies will love good swaddling and it will work wonders to help them stop crying. With very young babies that can’t yet roll it is O.K. to put to sleep swaddled up. However, as soon as you see that your baby is even attempting to roll, you should no longer put them to sleep in their swaddle. This is because they may rock and roll into a position they can’t breathe (such as face down) and will have a hard time or be unable to roll back with their arms trapped in the swaddle.

4. Keep the baby sleep area bare.

Just a fluffy sleeping surface increases the risk of suffocation, so do any fluffy additions to the baby’s sleeping area. That is why you should keep the baby sleep area free of any soft objects, loose bedding or anything that can trap, suffocate or strangulate the baby.

Common nursery items that are safer to keep OUT of the crib are: pillows, comforters, sheepskins, bumper pads, stuffed toys, and quilts. Dress the crib with a fitted sheet only. Follow this guideline until the baby is at least 12 months old.

5. Put the baby to sleep in your room but not in the same bed as you.

During your baby’s first year of life, the safest place to sleep the baby should sleep in the same room bedroom as the parents, but in their own crib or bassinet, within parent’s arms reach. This way, you can easily watch them and breastfeed them. Sharing a room can decrease the chance of SIDS by as much as 50%! Don’t put the baby in your bed in the middle of the night though, as this puts them at more risk of SIDS.

Co-sleeping (parents sharing a bed with baby) has been very popular lately, especially since we are moving towards the parenting styles based on positive reinforcement and attachment. However, because of the reasons I mentioned above, the parent’s bed really is not a safe place for babies to sleep. Adult beds tend to have more loose blankets and sheets that can lead to suffocation, or a parent can roll onto the baby causing harm.

Some people are coming up with solutions to try to merge co-sleeping and safety. They have invented things such as the bedside sleepers or in-bed sleepers, which might be a promising alternative. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics cannot endorse them yet because more safety studies need to be done. So, stay tuned!

6. Breastfeed for as long as you can.

Breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of SIDS. As you probably already heard a million times, breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it as the sole source of nutrition for the first 6 months of baby’s life, and to continue breastfeeding from 6-12 months of life as the baby is exploring their first solid foods. You can then continue to breastfeed for as long as baby and mom desire.

7. Do use a pacifier, if your baby likes it.

Offer your baby a pacifier for nap time and bedtime. If you are breastfeeding, wait until breastfeeding is going really well to offer a pacifier for the first time. This can be usually around 4 weeks but can be a little bit earlier for some. If you are not breastfeeding your baby, you can offer a pacifier as early as you want. The use of pacifiers is related to a reduced risk of SIDS. Don’t freak out if your baby doesn’t want the pacifier. Some babies will take it after offering it a few times, but some just really don’t like pacifiers. If you note that the baby’s pacifier has fallen out of their mouth in their sleep, you don’t have to put it back in.

Also, do not use pacifiers that attach to the baby’s clothes or to objects such as stuffed toys, bracelets, blankets, etc. Use a regular, soft silicone pacifier like these Philip Avent ones. I like these because they are well made and BPA-free (read my post on BPA and plastics safety). Do not dip or otherwise infuse the pacifier with juice or flavorings.

8. Give your baby some supervised tummy time.

Tummy time is basically your baby’s workout session, akin to pushups, kind of. Do this under parental supervision at all times. Some babies may initially dislike when you put them on their tummies and may act really upset. If this is the case, start with shorter sessions. When babies are really young, they barely have enough strength to move to turn their heads when they lie on their tummies.

As they develop more strength, your baby will be able to lift their heads, and soon use the elbows and hands to raise their chest. These tummy time sessions will help your baby develop the strength they need on their neck, arms, and chest to raise from the face-down position.

9. Schedule to well-child visits for your baby.

It’s important for your baby to have a medical home and get to know their pediatrician with scheduled health maintenance visits. In these visits, you will keep a check on nutrition, growth and development, parental bonding and other important baby health topics. You will also get the chance to discuss what immunizations are recommended for your baby and get them applied.  Recent evidence suggest that immunizations have a protective effect against SIDS.

10. Maintain an adequate room temperature for sleeping.

Try to keep the room where the baby will be sleeping at a comfortable temperature. Choose a temperature that feels comfortable to you. Preventing your baby from getting too hot helps reduce the risk of SIDS.

Be conscious of the clothing layers, and keep them similar to what you are wearing. Your baby might be too hot if the chest feels hot or sweaty. If you need to use a blanket because you are worried about the cold, prefer a wearable blanket that is designed to cover the body and not the face.

Now, if you are a smart-home fanatic like me, then you will probably also love the already famous Nest learning thermostat. It can help you keep the room temperature in check, learns from your habits and routines to keep the temperature safe and comfortable at the right time, and can be synced with Amazon Alexa for voice-commands.

11. Keep your baby away from cigarette smoke.

Do not allow any cigarette smoke near your baby. That includes, not allowing anyone or anything that smells like smoke anywhere near your baby. That includes keeping your entire home smoke-free, because cigarette smoke deposits onto the surfaces of objects in your home, and it will stay there long after someone smoked in the house.

What doesn’t work

Please be wary of falling for gimmicks that are meant to sell stuff to anxious parents that are terrified of SIDS. The tips I have posted above are based on the factors that have been researched for years for this purpose and are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. That doesn’t mean that maybe in the future some of this stuff won’t get awesome results and become endorsed as well, but for now, there is just not enough evidence to make a definitive safety statement.

The fact that these are not yet declared items to reduce the risk of SIDS, does not mean that they are unsafe. It just means that they are to be used if you want, but are not substitutes for the above, well-studied recommendations.

Baby monitors

I am a superfan of technology, smart homes, automation, etc.  I even have a monitor for my dogs. So, I won’t lie and say that I am not for baby monitors. However, the kind of monitor I mean is a camera with which I can spy what is going on in another room. Like the simple but effective Amazon indoor camera. It is a fun gadget (and I probably use it more than I should).

However, even in 2019, technology cannot save babies from SIDS. The baby monitor industry has gone too far recently with wearable devices that check the baby’s breathing, heart rate, and oxygen levels. These can be indicated for some babies that have breathing or heart problems, and it will be recommended by their doctors when they need it. However, otherwise healthy babies do not need this kind of monitors, as they do not reduce the risk of SIDS. They do increase the parent’s level of anxiety. So that is a pass from me.

Fancy sleeping surfaces

Many products such as special mattresses, wedges, and positioners will be marketed towards parents as SIDS-reducing. None of these have actually been studied enough to be linked to a reduced risk of SIDS and are not endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I would stick to a regular, firm, standard-compliant baby mattress (as described above).

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11 Easy Tips to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

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