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Baby Care Basics: What is SIDS?

Learn more about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and how to help reduce the risks to your baby.

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Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is the unexplained death of an infant under age one. As a parent, I know that there is nothing scarier than the idea that your baby might suddenly stop breathing while she's sleeping. To help protect your baby from SIDS, always put her to sleep on her back. When she's awake, spending time on her side and tummy is good for muscle development, and to prevent the back of the head from flattening. Keep soft items, such as pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals, out of her crib. Use a firm mattress and tightly fitted sheets. Skip all bumper pads, too. They can restrict your baby's breathing if her face presses against them. Make sure that your crib slats or spaced no more than 2 and 3/8 inches apart. Offer a pacifier at night. Research has shown that it can help prevent SIDS. Avoid cigarette smoke. Studies show that exposure to second-hand smoke can increase a baby's risk of SIDS, so can smoking during pregnancy. Lastly, don't sleep with your baby anywhere, even the couch. She could be suffocated by a pillow or a loose blanket, or you could roll over on her. If you want to be close to your baby at night, consider a co-sleeper that attaches to your bed.