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Keep Your Baby Safe During Sleep

The Basics

You can protect your baby from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes of death.

What is SIDS?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden death of a child under age 1 that experts can’t explain after looking closely at the case. In other words, when a healthy baby dies suddenly and no one knows why, doctors say the baby died from SIDS.

In the United States, SIDS is the leading cause of death for babies ages 1 month to 1 year. Each year, about 2,000 babies die from SIDS.

Find out more about SIDS.

What causes SIDS?

Experts don’t know what causes SIDS, which can be scary for parents. One thing we do know is that SIDS is most likely to happen while a baby is sleeping.

Even though the cause of SIDS isn’t known, some things do make it more likely. For example, babies are at higher risk for SIDS if they:

  • Sleep on their stomachs
  • Sleep on a soft surface (like an adult mattress or a couch)
  • Sleep on or under loose sheets or blankets
  • Sleep with toys or soft objects (like pillows or crib bumpers)
  • Get too hot while they sleep
  • Share a bed with parents, other children, or pets
  • Are around people who smoke cigarettes (or their mother smoked while she was pregnant)

Get tips for reducing your baby’s risk of SIDS.

What about other sleep-related causes of death?

Creating a safe place for your baby to sleep also protects her from accidental suffocation. Suffocation is when someone can’t breathe. For example, if a blanket is covering a baby’s mouth and nose, she may not be able to get enough air.

When you put your baby to sleep on a firm surface without soft objects like blankets, pillows, and toys, you lower the risk of both suffocation and SIDS.

Keep your baby safe during sleep.

Thinking about SIDS may be scary, but you can lower your baby’s risk. Take these steps to keep your baby safe:

  • Always put your baby to sleep on his back – at night and for naps.
  • Put your baby to sleep on a firm sleep surface.
  • Keep loose bedding and soft objects out of your baby’s crib.
  • Share a room with your baby, but not a bed.
  • Make sure your baby doesn’t get too hot during sleep.
  • Never smoke or let other people smoke around your baby.
  • Breastfeed your baby.
  • Make sure your baby gets all recommended shots (vaccines).

To learn more:

  • Get more information about safe sleep for babies. External Links Disclaimer Logo
  • Watch these videos about sleep safety.
  • Check out these questions and answers about safe sleep.

Take Action!

Follow these steps to help keep your baby safe during sleep.

Always put your baby to sleep on her back.

The most important thing you can do to keep your baby safe during sleep is to put her to sleep on her back – at night and for naps.

Never put your baby to sleep on her stomach. Babies who sleep on their stomachs are more likely to die from SIDS. Putting your baby to sleep on her stomach even just one time, like for a quick nap, can be dangerous.

Read more about why it’s important to put your baby to sleep on her back.

Talk to other people who care for your child.

Babies are more likely to die from SIDS when they are with someone besides their parents. Be sure to tell anyone who is caring for your baby (like a babysitter or a family member) that your baby needs to sleep on his back – every time.

Have “tummy time” when your baby is awake.

Remember, it’s okay to put your baby on her stomach when she is awake and you or someone else is watching. In fact, “tummy time” is important for your baby’s development.

Learn more about tummy time.

Put your baby to sleep on a firm sleep surface.

Always put your baby to sleep on a firm surface, like a firm mattress in a safety-approved crib. Get tips for choosing a safe crib.

Your baby can also sleep safely in a safety-approved bassinet or play yard (sometimes called a “pack and play”).

It’s very important to never put your baby to sleep on a soft surface, like a:

  • Couch
  • Adult mattress
  • Waterbed
  • Comforter or quilt
  • Pillow
  • Sheepskin

Keep loose bedding and soft objects out of your baby’s crib.

Loose bedding (like sheets and blankets) and other soft objects (like pillows and stuffed animals) can cover your baby’s face and make it more likely that he will:

  • Suffocate (be unable to breathe)
  • Breathe air that’s low in oxygen
  • Get too hot while sleeping

Make sure your baby can’t get tangled in sheets or blankets. To do this:

  • Choose a tight-fitting bottom sheet for the crib mattress.
  • Don’t put your baby to sleep with a blanket or quilt.

It’s also important to never put your baby to sleep with soft items like:

  • Soft toys
  • Stuffed animals
  • Crib bumpers
  • Sleep positioners or wedges

See what a safe sleep area looks like.

Share a room with your baby, but not a bed.

Having your baby sleep in the same room as you can lower the risk of SIDS. Keep in mind that your baby needs her own crib, bassinet, or other safety-approved sleep area.

Sleeping with you (or with other children or pets) in an adult bed is dangerous for your baby. Babies who share beds are more likely to die from SIDS or other sleep-related cause of death. This is especially true for babies younger than 3 months old.

Read more about why your baby needs her own sleep space.

Make sure your baby doesn’t get too hot during sleep.

Babies who get too hot while they are sleeping may be more likely to die from SIDS.

To keep your baby cool while he sleeps:

  • Never use blankets or quilts to keep your baby warm.
  • Put your baby to sleep in light sleep clothing. If it’s cold, you can put one more layer on your baby than you would wear yourself – but no more than that.
  • Keep the room where your baby sleeps at the same temperature you think is comfortable for adults. The room doesn’t need to be warmer than that.

If you are worried that your baby will get cold at night, you can try a one-piece sleeper (or “sleep sack”). A sleeper is a blanket that your baby can wear – usually, it has a zipper in the front.

Never smoke or let other people smoke around your baby.

Babies who are around people who smoke are more likely to die from SIDS. Read more about babies and secondhand smoke.

Don’t smoke during pregnancy.

Babies whose mothers smoked while they were pregnant are more likely to die from SIDS. Get more tips to have a healthy pregnancy.

Get your child’s shots on schedule.

Make sure your baby gets all of the recommended shots (vaccines) on schedule. This can help lower her risk for SIDS.

Breastfeed your baby.

Breastfeeding your baby lowers her risk for SIDS. And breastfeeding is healthy for both moms and babies!