Safe Sleep Saves Lives
Each year in the United States, about 3,400 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping. Sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) include sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), accidental suffocation in a sleeping environment, and other deaths from unknown causes.
Since the early 1990s, the SUID rate declined considerably following the release of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Safe Sleep Recommendations and the initiation of the Back to Sleep campaign (now known as Safe to Sleep® campaign).
However, while overall rates are falling, accidental suffocation rates are rising. Accidental suffocation most commonly occurs when a caregiver falls asleep with the infant in bed or in a chair, or when soft/loose bedding is in the infant’s sleep space.
The Best Place for Baby to Rest
These tragic deaths are completely preventable. Caregivers–including parents, childcare staff, and family members–can help save the lives of babies by practicing the 10 safe sleep guidelines below.
1. Back to sleep for every sleep.
There is only one way your baby should sleep at night or nap time: on their back.
- Babies lying on their backs are far less likely to suffocate, even if they spit up.
- Never position babies on their side and especially not on their tummy.
2. Firm, flat sleep surface covered only with a sheet.
The AAP recommends keeping flat sleep surfaces in your room for at least the first six months of your baby’s life. Also remember to avoid the following:
- No mattress pads
- No spit cloths
- No sleeping in seats (like swings, car seats, bouncy seats, reclined sleepers, etc.)
- No elevating the head of the bed unless there is a medical order
3. Room-sharing but not bed sharing.
Studies show that infants are safer in your room — but never in your bed. Sleeping with your baby in the adult bed is one of the most common causes of infant death because they can be smothered by the parent or by soft items in the bed.
- Keep the baby’s bed in the room with parents for six months or more.
- Cuddle or breastfeed in bed, but put baby back to sleep in their own crib or bassinet close to your bed.
- Twins must each have a separate crib.
4. Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of infant’s crib.
Nothing should be in the baby's crib or bassinet except the infant. The following items should never be in the baby's sleeping space:
- Positioning devices of any kind
- Spit cloths
- Stuffed animals
5. Use sleep clothing instead of a blanket.
A properly sized sleep sack or wearable blanket is enough to keep baby cozy.
- A onesie or long sleeve sleeper are recommended
- If an additional layer is needed, it should be a wearable sleep sack
6. Don't let baby become too hot.
Overheating can contribute to SIDS, so don’t overdress baby for sleep. Also, don't dress baby in hats or mittens for sleeping.
7. Offer a pacifier after breastfeeding has been established.
Pacifier use has been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS. Do not attach the pacifier to anything (i.e., string, clothing, stuffed toy, or blanket) to reduce the risk of suffocation, choking, or strangulation.
8. Avoid smoke exposure, including second-hand smoke.
Babies who live with smokers or are exposed to secondhand smoke (smoke from other people’s cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes) are at increased risk of SIDS. Keep your home and your car smoke-free.
9. Breastfeeding is recommended because it has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life can reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. Babies who breastfeed, or are fed breastmilk, are at lower risk for SIDS than are babies who were never fed breastmilk.
10. Do not use home heart or breathing monitors as a strategy to reduce SIDS.
Talk to your baby's pediatrician if you have questions about using these types of monitors for specific health conditions.
Example of Baby in a Safe Sleep Area
This image is an example of a baby sleeping in a safe area.
- Baby is on her back in her own bassinet next to the parent’s bed.
- The mattress is flat, the baby is dressed appropriately.
- There is no extra bedding or soft objects in the crib.
As part of Memorial Family Birthplace's commitment to safety, prior to discharge, families receive education about safe sleep practices and how to use a sleep sack to help keep their baby safe. Please make sure that you know the ABC’s of Safe Sleep so that you can help save a baby’s life.
In addition, we encourage you to register for our free, online Infant Sleep Safety class to learn what a safe sleep environment looks like and how to reduce your baby's risk of SUID.
Accidental suffocation affects people from all walks of life.
Samuel Hanke, MD, a pediatric cardiologist and an assistant professor in clinical pediatrics, and his wife welcomed their first-born son, Charlie, with incredible joy. But their lives changed three weeks after bringing Charlie home when he died of accidental suffocation. Dr. Hanke now serves as president of Charlie’s Kids Foundation, an organization he and his wife founded, that is committed to educating families about Safe Sleep to help prevent other parents from suffering the sudden and unthinkable loss of an infant. Memorial Hospital Systems is committed to that goal too.
If you have questions about safe sleep, talk to your baby's pediatrician and visit the Safe to Sleep website to learn more about safe sleep.