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Published on October 17, 2019

The ABCs of Safe Sleep: What You Can Do to Prevent SIDS

The ABCs of Safe Sleep

In 2017 – just two years ago – there were 1,400 infant deaths in America caused by sudden infant death syndrome. Sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS, is the unexplained death of a child who is less than a year old. SIDS is often unpredictable and unpreventable.

While there are physical risk factors of SIDS that you cannot control, there are still many ways you can help reduce your child’s risk. The best place to start is with safe sleep practices.

Research has shown that many infant deaths that occur in a sleep environment are preventable by always following safe sleep practices. In response to this research, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has published 4 simple recommendations about safe sleep environments for infants. Remember these guidelines by memorizing the ABCs of safe sleep:

The ABCs of Safe Sleep

A Is for Alone

Babies should not share a bed with anyone. Adult-size beds are not safe for infants, and blankets can become dangerous if they block your baby’s airway. If you sit on a bed with your infant, be careful to not fall asleep without placing your baby back in their crib. 

B Is for Back

Babies should be put to sleep on their backs. It can be difficult for a baby to breathe when placed on their side or stomach.

C Is for Crib

The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a crib or bassinet. Make sure your baby’s crib has a flat surface with no toys or heavy blankets. If it’s cold, dress your baby in warm sleep clothing instead of covering them with a blanket.

S Is for Smoking

Smoke exposure increases a baby’s risk of SIDS. Do not smoke around your baby and reduce their exposure to secondhand smoke as much as possible.

Practice the ABCs of safe sleep each time your baby sleeps: during naps, at bedtime, at day care and when a loved one is taking care of them. It’s also important to avoid assuming that all of your baby’s caretakers understand safe sleep practices. When leaving your child in someone else’s care, have a conversation with them about the ABCs of safe sleep.

If you have questions or concerns about SIDS, talk to your baby’s health care provider. They can offer guidance best suited for your baby’s specific needs.  

About the Author

Kaye Gable, MDKaye Gable, MD is a pediatrician and the program director and clinical professor of pediatrics at Cone Health Pediatric Teaching Program