Parents who know about SIDS may think of it as their worst nightmare. Sudden infant death syndrome is known as SIDS or crib death. It’s when a baby 12 months or younger dies during sleep with no warning signs or a clear reason.
Although there is no 100% way to prevent SIDS, there is a lot you can do lower your baby’s risk. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its safe sleep recommendations in 1992 and launched its "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1994, the SIDS rate has dropped more than 60%. In 2015, the CDC noted 39.4 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 154.5 deaths in 1990.
Put a Sleeping Baby on His Back
Your baby’s risk of SIDS is much higher any time he sleeps on his side or stomach. (A baby placed on his side can roll over on his stomach.) These positions put your baby’s face in the mattress or sleeping area, which can smother him.
So, every time you put your baby in his bed to sleep -- for naps, at night, or any time -- lay him down on his back. Don’t let him sleep in a stroller, car seat, baby seat or swing for a prolonged period of time. Get him out and lay him on a flat surface or bed.
Tell anyone who takes care of your baby how essential it is to lay your sleeping baby on his back each time. That includes grandparents, babysitters and childcare providers, older siblings, and others. They may think one time won’t matter, but it can. When a baby who usually sleeps on his back is suddenly laid on his stomach to sleep, the risk of SIDS is much higher.
If you’re worried your baby might choke while sleeping on his back, don't be. Choking is very rare, and healthy babies tend to swallow or cough up fluids automatically. If you’re concerned, ask your pediatrician about elevating the head of your baby's bed.
Once your baby can roll over both ways, which usually happens around 6 months, he may not stay on his back. That’s OK. It’s fine to let him choose his own sleep position once he knows how to roll over.