Sudden infant death syndrome


  • Always put your baby on his back to sleep to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS).

  • Don’t smoke. Babies of parents who smoke are more likely to die of SIDS than other babies.

  • Don’t bed-share. Put your baby to sleep in his own crib or bassinet.

  • Give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime.

What is SIDS?

Sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS or crib death) is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. SIDS can happen without warning to a baby who seems healthy. It’s the leading cause of death in babies between 1 month and 1 year old. Most SIDS cases happen in babies between 2 and 4 months old.

What causes SIDS?

We don’t know what causes SIDS. But some things make some babies more likely than others to die of SIDS. These are called risk factors. Risk factors for SIDS include: 

Sleeping risk factors. A baby is more likely to die of SIDS if he:

  • Sleeps on his tummy or on his side
  • Sleeps on pillows, soft surfaces or soft bedding
  • Wears too many clothes to sleep or sleeping in a room that is too hot. These things can cause your baby to overheat.
  • Shares a bed with you. This is called bed-sharing. It’s when you and your baby sleep together in the same bed. Half of all babies who die of SIDS are babies who share a bed, sofa or sofa chair with another person. The American Academy of Pediatrics (also called AAP) recommends that you and your baby sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed, for the first year of your baby’s life or at least for the first 6 months.
  • Is swaddled for sleep and rolls over on his tummy. Swaddling is when you snuggly wrap a thin blanket around your baby so that it covers most of his body below the neck. It’s safe to swaddle your baby until he can roll over.  When he can roll over, stop swaddling.

Individual risk factors. A baby is more likely to die of SIDS if he:

  • Is a boy. SIDS happens in boys more often than in girls.
  • Is black or Native American. These babies are more likely to die of SIDS than other babies.
  • Is born prematurely or with low birthweight. Premature birth is birth that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Low birthweight is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. 
  • Has parents who smoke, drink alcohol or use street drugs

Are there any products that can help lower your baby’s risk of SIDS?

Yes. Giving your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime may help prevent SIDS in your baby. If you're breastfeeding, wait until your baby is 1 month old before using a pacifier. If your baby won't take a pacifier, don't force it. It's OK if the pacifier falls out of your baby's mouth during sleep. Don't hang the pacifier around your baby's neck or attach the pacifier to your baby's clothing or a stuffed animal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (also called AAP) says not to use products, like special mattresses or wedges, that are supposed to reduce a baby’s risk of SIDS. There is no evidence that these products help prevent SIDS.  

The AAP also says not to use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a way to reduce the risk of SIDS. These monitors track a baby’s heart rate and breathing. In rare cases, some babies need this kind of monitor because of medical problems. There’s no evidence that the monitors help reduce the risk of SIDS in healthy babies. 

Learn about other safe sleep tips to help keep your baby safe.

More information

See also: From hurt to healing

Last reviewed: October, 2016