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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.  

Before your worries keep you from sleeping at night, know that although there is no 100% way to prevent SIDS, there is a lot you can do lower your baby’s risk. Since parents widely began following the steps below, the SIDS rate in the United States has dropped more than 50%.

Put a Sleeping Baby on His Back

Your baby’s risk of SIDS is very high 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.

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 very high.

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.

Firm Bed, No Soft Toys or Bedding

To prevent smothering or suffocation, always lay your baby down to sleep on a firm surface, like a safety-approved mattress with a fitted sheet. All your baby’s crib needs is the fitted sheet -- don't put blankets, quilts, pillows, sheepskin, stuffed toys, or crib bumpers in your baby's crib.

To confirm the safety of your baby's mattress or crib contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 800-638-2772 or www.cpsc.gov.

Don't Smoke Around Your Baby

Here’s a huge incentive to stop smoking before you get pregnant: Babies born to women who smoked during pregnancy die from SIDS three times more often than babies born to nonsmokers. Smoking when you're pregnant is a major risk factor for SIDS, and second-hand smoke around your infant also increases the chances of SIDS. Don't let anyone smoke around your baby.