Make Sleep Time a Safe Time for Babies

September 3, 2013

Originally published on Oct. 1, 2012

There's something beautiful about a sleeping baby.

One would think that's when a baby is safest, but each year in the U.S., thousands of babies younger than 1 year of age die suddenly and unexpectedly during sleep.

These deaths are called SUID, Sudden Unexpected Infant Death. SUID includes all unexpected deaths: those without a clear cause such as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death) and those from a known cause, such as suffocation, entrapment or strangulation. In Georgia, it is a leading cause of death and in 2010 it claimed 202 infants.        

There are ways to reduce the risk associated with sleep and since the launch of the Back to Sleep campaign in 1994, the SIDS rate has dropped by more than 50 percent. However, the rate has plateaued in recent years and in some areas these deaths are increasing.

This month the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is launching the new Safe to Sleep campaign, an expanded version of Back to Sleep. The campaign aims to expand upon the success of the previous campaign by reducing the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. It incorporates the most up-to-date recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on infant safe sleep practices. It also provides information for parents and caregivers on ways to help reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. Parents and caregivers should follow these guidelines to lower a baby's risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death:

Babies sleep safest on their backs - Babies who sleep on their backs every time, for naps and at night, are much less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomach or sides.   

Room-sharing - Create a separate sleep area for your baby. This means a safety approved crib, bassinet or portable play area. If you bring your baby into your bed to breastfeed, make sure to put him or her back in their own sleep area when you're finished.

Sleep surface matters - Use a firm sleep surface, covered by a fitted sheet. Babies who sleep on a soft surface, such as an adult mattress, or under a soft surface, like a blanket or quilt, are at greater risk of death.

On the NICHD Safe to Sleep website,, the new brochure, Safe Sleep For Your Baby, contains more detailed information and a one page fact sheet. Make sure everyone who cares for your baby knows the ways to reduce the risks of infant sleep-related deaths. Let's make every sleep time a safe time for Georgia babies.

About the Author