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By Tammy Gold, LCSW, MSW, CEC

Sudden infant death syndrome (or SIDS) is the unexpected, unexplained death of a child under 1 year of age. SIDS most commonly occurs in children under 6 months old and the highest risk for SIDS is in children between 2 – 4 months old. There is no explanation for why a seemingly healthy child is suddenly affected with SIDS. More boys than girls are affected by SIDS. Almost all SIDS deaths occur without any warning and cannot be predicted. Almost all SIDS deaths occur during the sleeping hours of 10:00pm and 10:00am and increase in number during the winter (most often in January). SIDS can also occur during the day and while a child is in daycare so please educate your daycare providers as well. This article is intended to share tips on preventing SIDS.

It is a combination of risk factors (instead of just one risk) that seems to be linked to the occurrence of SIDS in a child. The factors may include:

  • The child sleeping on his/her stomach or side
  • Poor prenatal care or poor nutrition during pregnancy
  • Teen mothers (under the age of 20)
  • Smoking, drinking or using drugs during pregnancy
  • Born prematurely or with a very low birth weight
  • Short period of time between pregnancies
  • Multiple birth children (twins, triplets, etc)
  • Exposure to second hand tobacco smoke
  • Soft bedding, blankets or other objects in the crib
  • Sleeping on a soft surface
  • Overheating due to excessive clothing and bedding
  • African American children have more than double the risk of SIDS than Caucasian children. American Indian children have more than triple the risk of that in Caucasian children.

Tips on Preventing SIDS:

  • Always place a child under 1 year of age on his/her back to sleep
  • Do not place a child under 1 year of age on his/her tummy or side to sleep!
    • NOTE about sleeping on back - Children around the age of 5 or 6 months may be able to roll over onto their tummies on their own. But, by this age, the risk of SIDS has dropped, so start the child on his/her back and don’t be concerned if he/she rolls over. Just make sure the child’s crib area has been properly prepared to reduce the risk of SIDS (see the next few tips for help)
  • Dress the child in a sleep sack or swaddle the child using a thin, light blanket to help the child sleep more comfortably on his/her back
  • Have the child sleep on a firm, flat mattress with only a fitted sheet (no pillow)
  • Keep soft, fluffy blankets or comforters away from the sleeping child
    • If the child is cold, put warmer clothes on him/her instead of using a blanket. (Great product is Halo Sleepsak.)
    • If using a blanket, use a large, thin blanket and make sure it is securely tucked under 3 corners of the mattres thus ensuring that the blanket only reaches to the child’s armpits (not over the child’s head).
  • Remove stuffed toys and pillows from around a sleeping child.
  • Make sure the child does not become too hot while sleeping – do not overdress or keep the temperature in the room too high. It’s usually recommended at 68-71 degrees.
  • Use a pacifier when putting the child to bed or down for a nap for the first year.
  • Run a fan in the bedroom while the child is sleeping to help circulate the air.
  • Do not let the child sleep in the parents’ bed, instead return the child to his/her crib after feeding or comforting.
  • Let the child sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed.
  • Do not allow a child to sleep on a pillow, couch, chair or other soft surface.
  • Crib bumpers do not need to be used. Without the bumpers, the air will circulate more easily through the crib.
  • Avoid exposing the child to secondhand smoke
  • Offer your baby a pacifier. Some studies have shown a lower rate of SIDS among babies who use pacifiers.
  • Keep the child up-to-date on his/her well-child checkups and immunizations.

For more information and tips on preventing SIDS, please visit, an organization that provided informational assistance with this article.

About the Author

Tammy Gold

Tammy Gold, LCSW, MSW, CEC, is author of Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer: A Practical Guide for Finding and Achieving the Gold Standard of Care for Your Child (Perigee, January 6, 2015). Founder of Gold Parent Coaching, which specializes in parent coaching, therapy, nanny-family matching, training and mediation, she has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and People, and is a frequent guest on TV's Good Morning America and Today.

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