The most common SIDS risk factors and how to correct them

October 16, 2015

Posted By: Shaunescy

October is SIDS awareness month, and in honor of this month I have compiled a list of the most common SIDS risk factors and how to avoid them.  If you have any questions or concerns about safe sleeping, ask your doctor.  We are surrounded by health care professionals that truly care for your child's well being and will give you tailored advice for your family.

Back to sleep: This may otherwise not be such a big issue if babies slept on their backs soundly.  Often babies seem to prefer sleeping on their stomachs, and often will do so when they are capable. Ever since the "back-to-sleep" campaign began telling parents to place babies on their backs, SIDS deaths have declined by about 50%.  These statistics alone show how important it is to push through the challenge of getting your little one used to sleeping on his/her back.

So try this as a first step to help your child get used to back sleeping: have your baby spend some time on his back during his awake time, and try to start off each nap and bedtime with your baby on his back.  If you've tried to get your baby used to sleeping on his back and your baby is still fussing like crazy or continually startling himself into an awake state, you may want to speak with your child's healthcare provider about swaddling your baby or using a swaddle sack for sleep.  This can replicate the cozy fetal position they are used to from the womb.  If you feel as if your baby just won't sleep soundly on his back no matter what you do, or you feel as if he is developmentally ready to sleep on his stomach, it is important that you speak with your health care provider to help you determine whether your little one is developmentally ready to sleep on his stomach.  Finally, providing your child with ample monitored tummy time during the day will also help your child develop the necessary skills to sleep on his stomach safely.

Firm Bed, No Soft Toys or Bedding: Research by Peter Blair (a medical statistics researcher in infant and child health at the University of Bristol in England) shows that infants who die from SIDS are found more often with bedding over their heads than similarly aged infants who don't die from SIDS. Thus it is important to avoid putting any type of toy, crib bumpers, or blankets in your child's crib unless verified by your child's health care provider.

Being especially careful about your child's sleep environment the first year is crucial, and even more so between the ages of 0-6 months. Today many experts believe that babies are especially susceptible to SIDS when they are going through developmental milestones, and between the ages of 0-6 months is when huge developmental leaps are being made.

So, you might be asking yourself, "what bedding and toys can I use that will be safe for my baby as she sleeps?" A well-fitted bedtime onesie is a perfect alternative to a blanket for bedtime. If you feel as if your baby needs a bit more covering than a onesie, an infant sleep sack is an excellent alternative to a blanket as it provides the warmth but eliminates the safety hazard a blanket would have.  A well fitted sheet over your child's crib mattress is also an important safety precaution. As for an attachment object for your child, I encourage you to find a toy that you feel will be safe (no small parts that can come off easily, small, breathable...) and then ask your child's health care provider before introducing it to your child, especially if your child is younger than a year old.

Breastfeed as Long as You Can: Another very practical thing parents can do to protect your child from SIDS is to breastfeed. I know for many parents breastfeeding is not a possibility. But if you are able to breastfeed, do so until your baby is at least the age of 6 months. Breastfeeding until your child is past the most vulnerable developmental stages is going to be hugely beneficial. Research has shown that breast feeding reduces the chance of SIDS by about 60%.

Keep Your Baby From Overheating: Research studies suggest that SIDS deaths could be attributed to mechanical obstruction of the airways, re-breathing of expired air or thermal stress (overheating). Babies control their temperature predominantly through the face. Thus, head and face should not be covered at all while baby is sleeping. Having the sleeping baby on the back with the head and face uncovered is the best way to protect baby from overheating.  Try to keep the room a comfortable t-shirt temperature. Remove baby’s hoodie as soon as you go indoors or enter a warm area.

Bed sharing: According to Montana's safety sleep guidelines, it is suggested to parents to have babies in the same room but in a separate sleep space from the parents for the first six months of life.  Ultimately, parents decide what they feel is best and safest for their babies. Thus if you choose to bed share, room-share, or have your baby's crib in a separate room, there are always safety precautions that you can take that will help your baby sleep as safely as possible. I outlined just a few of those safety precautions that you can take, but I encourage you to do your research and speak with your doctor, to make the best informed decision for your family.


Myra Hartzheim is a  Certified Gentle Sleep Coach since January 2015, through Kim West, LCSW-C, aka The Sleep Lady ®. The Gentle Sleep Coaching Program is currently the most extensive and professional sleep certification program available. For more information please visit

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