What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?


Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant younger than 1 year old. It is the leading cause of death in children between 1 month and 1 year of age. Most SIDS deaths happen when babies are between 2 months and 4 months of age. Child care providers can help reduce the risk of SIDS by using safe sleeping practices with infants.

What Causes SIDS?

No one knows for sure what causes SIDS. Factors that seem to contribute to SIDS are

  • Putting babies to sleep on their stomachs
  • Keeping the room too warm
  • Overheating from clothing or crib bedding
  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke

What Child Care Providers Can Do to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

  • Always place babies on their backs to sleep. Babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides.
  • Use the back sleep position every time. Babies who usually sleep on their backs but who are then placed on their stomachs, like for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS. So it is important for babies to sleep on their backs every time, for naps and at night.
  • Place baby on a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved* crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet. Never place a baby to sleep on a pillow, quilt, sheepskin or other soft surface.
  • Keep soft objects, toys and loose bedding out of baby’s sleep area. Don’t use pillows, blankets, quilts, sheepskins, or pillow-like bumpers in a baby’s sleep area. Keep all items away from the baby’s face. Make sure nothing covers baby’s head.
  • Avoid letting the baby overheat during sleep. Dress baby in a one-piece sleeper and keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.
  • Consult with parents about using a pacifier when placing baby down to sleep but don’t force the baby to take it. Wait until breastfeeding babies are at least 1 month old before using a pacifier.

For More Information

To learn more about keeping infants in child care safe, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: