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Health & Safety

10 Expert Tips to Lower the Risk of SIDS

Memorize these before you bring baby home

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Every year, approximately 3,500 babies die in their sleep from SIDS or accidental suffocation. While 90 percent of these babies die between the ages of 0 and 6 months, all parents need to assume their little one is vulnerable the entire first year. Lower your risk of SIDS by heeding this advice from baby docs:

1. Always put babies to sleep on their backs. You’ve heard it a million times, but it’s super important. There are even “magic” sleepers you can buy that are structured to keep your kid on his back. The good news? Once your infant has totally mastered flipping over from back to stomach (and vice versa), you don’t have to constantly roll him onto his back every time. “If he has that strength and those motor skills, he should be able to clear his face and head if he needs to adjust to breathe during the night,” notes Ari Brown, M.D., an Austin-based pediatrician and the author of the Baby 411 series.

2. Ditch the crib decor. A firm mattress and fitted sheet is all your child needs when she sleeps—so skip all the blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, or bumpers. “Decorate the nursery, not the crib,” Dr. Brown says. “Babies don’t care if their bedding set matches or not.” If the sight of a bare bassinet makes your heart ache, put your newborn in a cute, cozy sleeper.

3. Don’t let him get too toasty when snoozing. Keep the house at a temperature you find comfy and only dress your baby in one extra layer than what you have on, recommends Laura Jana, M.D., a pediatrician and author of Heading Home with Your Newborn. Go ahead and cover those little feet, but take off the hat. Not only does it raise your baby’s body temperature, it can slip over his face.

4. Swaddle with care. A recent study found swaddling increased the risk of SIDs. But if you can’t imagine skipping this surefire calming trick, you can follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations: Never put your baby burrito to sleep on her stomach, and stop swaddling altogether as soon as she starts trying to roll over.

5. Share a room, not a bed. Keeping your cutie close by in a co-sleeper or crib makes nighttime feedings easier and helps you respond more quickly if you sense something’s wrong, says Dr. Jana. In fact, there’s evidence that room sharing cuts the SIDS risk by half. But sleeping with the baby in your bed is a big no-no.

6. Stay awake during feedings. Sleep-deprived moms know how tough it is to stay awake during late-night feedings. But drifting off increases the chances that your baby can suffocate or fall, whether you’re in bed or on a sofa. “I found that I needed to get out of bed to stay awake,” says Dr. Jana, who headed to a special chair to breastfeed each of her three kids.

7. Offer up a binky. “There seems to be some evidence that sucking on a pacifier as the baby is falling asleep may decrease the risk of SIDS,” says Dr. Brown. But if your little one doesn’t take to it, no worries—it’s more important to follow the other precautions.

8. Breastfeed for the first month if possible. Breastfeeding for the first month can cut the chances of SIDS by half, reveals research published in AAP News & Journals. This even includes partial breastfeeding, too!

9. Don’t forget about tummy time. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics—which updated its safe sleeping recommendations in 2016—make sure tummy time is always supervised.

10. Stay on top of vaccinations. There is a myth that routine shots have caused SIDS or increased its chances, but there is zero evidence, says Christopher Colby, M.D., chair of the neonatal division at the Mayo Clinic. “Instead, there is compelling data out of France, New Zealand, and England that those babies who get immunized have a decreased risk of SIDS.”