Keeping Baby Safe: SIDS Risk Reduction

Do you take care of someone elseís baby? If you are a grandparent, other relative, friend, babysitter, church child care provider, or day care provider, this message is for you and the parents of that baby.


The chances of a baby dying of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) are greater during the time when a parent is not in charge.

Why? The most common reason given is that young parents today have heard the SIDS Risk Reduction rules for Safer Sleep. The thought of their baby dying is enough to get their attention. Other caregivers may have missed the Back to Sleep campaign and other SIDS safety messages, or they may think that it doesnít apply to them because the baby is not with them all night, every night.


Every person who cares for a baby needs to practice Safer Sleep for every baby every time the baby goes to sleep. Even if it is a short sleep. Even if it is a nap. Even if it is in the daytime. Babies who are used to sleeping on their backs and are placed to sleep on their tummies are 18 times (!) more likely to die from SIDS. The message is: Back to Sleep every Time.


Some experts explain that babies become accustomed to the Safer Sleep environment their parents use, and their brains havenít had practice in how to keep them breathing and their heart beating when they suddenly are placed in an unsafe situation. Other scientists believe that babies who have a brain chemistry or other problem that increases their risk of SIDS are kept alive by their parents who practice Safer Sleep, only to die during one of the times another caregiver places them in a less safe environment.


Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the death of an apparently healthy baby without any warning during sleep. SIDS can occur whenever a baby falls asleep. And baby simply fails to wake up. SIDS is the most common cause of infant death in babies 1 month to 12 months old. It can happen anytime in the first year, but SIDS is most common among babies ages 2-4 months, a time when babies are likely to spend increased time with a non-parent caregiver.


What causes SIDS? Scientists are not sure, but they are targeting their research now on brain chemicals in parts of the brain that control breathing, heartbeat, and sleep. We cannot yet identify whether one particular baby is at higher risk for SIDS, so everyone who cares for a baby must know how to protect them.


Epidemiologists, who specialize in connecting risk factors to diseases and conditions, discovered in the 1990s that babies in some sleep situations were less likely to die of SIDS. New research about Safer Sleep continues today with new recommendations coming out often as infant health advocates try to stop the tragic epidemic of SIDS. For more information, check out or A Child Care Providerís Guide to Safe Sleep at

So here is the question again: Do you ever take care of a baby under the age of 1 year? Your own? Someone elseís? Every baby deserves a chance to wake up. Every parent deserves the chance to raise their beautiful baby. We cannot prevent every case of SIDSó we donít know how yetó but the risk of a child you love being taken away can be reduced if you follow these SIDS Risk Reduction recommendations for Safer Sleep:


©      Back to Sleep.  

R  Always place babies on their backs every time you lay them down.

R  If they roll over to the side or stomach, pick them up and put them on their backs again.

R  Itís Back to Sleep. Side and stomach positions are dangerous.


©      Breastfeed your baby, moms.

R  Breastfed babies have a lower risk of SIDS than formula fed babies.

R  This is just one of many ways breastfed babies are given an advantage in life.

R  Donít ďtryĒ to breastfeed- just do it.


©      Formula fed babies should be offered a pacifier when they go to sleep.

R  Research shows formula fed babies are less likely to die of SIDS if they are offered a pacifier before they fell asleep.

R  Offer the pacifier but donít force baby to take it.

R  If the pacifier falls out while the baby is asleep, there is no need to put it back in babyís mouth.

R  Breastfed babies are at lower risk of SIDS than formula fed babies, but they may be offered a pacifier after one month of age when breastfeeding is well-established.


©      Several big dangers.

R  Babies should not sleep on sofas, waterbeds, chairs, bean bags, or in bed with other children.

R  Wedges and infant sleep positioners have been recalled because babies have suffocated on them. Do not use anything you buy or make (not even a rolled up blanket) to keep your baby on his or her back.

R  Babies should never share a bed with other children or adults who are not one of their parents. Grandparentsó this means you should not sleep with the baby on a bed, sofa, or chair.

R  Donít have anything near the crib that baby can reach like toys, curtains, or cords for blinds.

R  Caregivers who are not the parents of the baby should be particularly careful to follow the recommendations for SIDS Risk Reduction. Babies are more likely to die of SIDS while under the care of someone other than mom or dad. This includes grandparents and other loving relatives, babysitters, and child care providers.

©      Safe place to sleep. 

R  Any crib you use should be modern and not on a recall list. See or

R  A Coke can should not be able to fit between the slats.

R  The mattress should fit tight against the sides of the crib.

R  Basinets must meet these same high standards and not be used after baby exceeds the length and weight requirements or can sit up.

R  There are especially strict rules about babies sleeping in adult beds that can be found online at including rules about *parents only (no other family members in the bed), *baby never on an adult bed alone, *no smoking, *minimal pillows and covers and none near the baby, *no medications or alcohol that make a parent sleepy,* no obesity, *no exceptionally tired parents, and *breastfeeding only. Dangers of co-sleeping are increased with *tired teenage parents and *mothers who sleep with their babies because they have to, not because they want to.


©      Safe sleep surface: bare mattress and minimal covers.

R  The mattress should be covered with a snug fitted sheet.

R  The baby should be dressed just warm enough for the room with no blanket or a single thin blanket tucked into the bottom of the crib. Many parents use sleepers in colder weather to get the right amount of cover without using blankets.

R  No pillows, no quilts, no bumpers, no fluffy blankets, no hats, no stuffed animals. Did we forget to put something on the list? Donít put that in the crib, either.


©      Babies who are too warm are at higher risk of SIDS.

R  Donít let baby get too warm.

R  Donít bundle babies in too many extra clothes or blankets. Particularly in the South, we add extra blankets on days that are just comfortably cool.

R  Babies need about the same amount of clothes and cover you do unless theyíre premature and under 5 pounds. If you go outdoors and itís cold and windy, you might add a hat to cover a mostly bald little head and make sure they have as much protection as you.

R  Donít cover the car seat or stroller with a blanket or quilt. There is a danger of overheating and suffocation.

R  Keep the house and car and anywhere else your baby sleeps just warm enough.

R  Keep a fan on in the room where baby is sleeping to circulate the air. It shouldnít blow directly on the baby unless itís hot summer and you have no air conditioning. This is a method proven to decrease the risk of SIDS.

R  Never leave your baby alone in the car- they can overheat in minutes and die of heat stroke even in cool weather.