Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a seemingly healthy infant less than 1 year of age.1 SIDS is the most recognizable sudden, unexpected infant death (SUID) and has no known cause.2 For parents, not knowing what causes SIDS can be scary, but there are steps that you can take and factors to be aware of to reduce the chances of SIDS in your infant.
Factors That Increase the Risk of SIDS
SIDS is diagnosed after all other possible causes of death have been ruled out.3 There are several factors that can increase your baby’s risk for SIDS. These factors include1:
• Sex. Infant boys are slightly more likely to die from SIDS.
• Age. Infants are most vulnerable to SIDS between two and four months.
• Family history. Infants with siblings or cousins who passed away from SIDS are at a higher risk for SIDS.
• Premature birth. Being born prematurely increases the likelihood that a baby’s brain has not matured completely, giving them less control over automatic processes, such as breathing and heart rate, increasing their risk for SIDS.
Creating a Safe Sleeping Environment for Your Baby
SIDS often takes place while the baby is asleep or in the area where the baby sleeps.4 About 3,500 infants die each year unexpectedly in their sleep, most of these deaths being due to SIDS.5 You can create a safe sleeping environment for your baby and reduce the chances of a sleep-related death by:1
• Placing your baby on their back for sleeping.
• Laying your baby on a firm, flat surface. A crib or bassinet with a firm surface is better for safe sleeping. A fluffy blanket or a soft mattress can block your baby’s airway.
• Placing your baby in their own crib for sleeping. It is recommended that you and your baby share a room at bedtime, however, their risk for SIDS increases if they sleep in the same bed as their parents or siblings.
• Making sure your baby’s sleeping environment is at a comfortable temperature. Overheating while sleeping can increase your baby’s risk for SIDS.
Other Prevention Methods
While there is no way to completely prevent SIDS, there are other methods that you can follow to lessen the chances of SIDS in your baby:6, 7, 8
• Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has many benefits when it comes to improving the health of you and your baby. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding can reduce risks for SIDS by up to 64%.
• Pacifier use. Giving your baby a pacifier during naptime and bedtime may help reduce the risk of SIDS. However, you should not hang a pacifier around your baby’s neck or attach it to their clothes while they sleep.
• Staying smoke-free. Keeping your baby in a smoke-free environment reduces the risk of SIDS. This can mean limiting or quitting smoking altogether. Secondhand smoke can increase the risk of SIDS and other health problems. Mothers who smoke while they are pregnant also increase their baby’s risk for SIDS.
• Incorporate “tummy time.” Giving your baby plenty of “tummy time,” or time spent lying on their stomach, is an important way to monitor your baby’s motor skills and movement. Supervised tummy time can help reduce the risk of SIDS and prevent flat spots on the back of your baby’s head.
The cause of SIDS remains unknown, which can create a frightening reality for parents and caregivers. If you are concerned about SIDS and its risks for your baby, contact your primary care physician about safe sleeping and other SIDS prevention methods.
Bright Start and Maternal Care
AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia (DC) proudly offers special programs to ensure the health of enrollees, including our Bright Start program. Bright Start is a maternity care program designed to support you throughout your pregnancy and after you give birth. Bright Start is a safe place for you to ask questions and get the care you need for you and your baby.
Bright Start program members will be able to work with a Care Manager to help receive and use proper program services.
Bright Start can help you:
• Find an OB/GYN or midwife.
• Schedule transportation to and from your appointments.
• Get diapers, a car seat, a breast pump, and other supplies.
• Find breastfeeding support and childbirth classes.
• Create a birth plan.
• Sign up for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
• Find housing.
• Sign up for home-delivered meals and other nutrition programs.
To learn more about Bright Start, visit www.amerihealthcaritasdc.com/member/eng/healthy-living/programs.aspx, or call 1-877-759-6883, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
1. “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS),” Mayo Clinic,
2. “New Research on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS),” Nationwide Children’s Hospital,
3. “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS),” KidsHealth,
kidshealth.org/en/parents/ sids.html#:~:text=What%20Is%20SIDS%3F,still%20called%20 %22crib%20death.%22
4. “About SUID and SIDS,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/sids/about/index.htm
5. “How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby
Safe: AAP Policy Explained,” Healthy-children.org,
6. “Breastfeeding: AAP Policy Explained,” Healthychildren.org,
www.healthychildren.org/ English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/ Pages/Where-We-Stand-Breastfeeding. aspx
7. “Pacifiers: Are They Good for Your Baby?” Mayo Clinic,
www.mayoclinic.org/ healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/pacifiers/ art-20048140#:~:text=Sucking%20on%20a%20pacifier%20 might,reduce%20the%20risk%20 of%20SIDS%20.
8. “Ways to Reduce Baby’s Risk,” National Institute of Child Health and Human Development,
All images are used under license for illustrative purposes only. Any individual depicted is a model