What parent doesn’t want to reduce the risk of SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? Years ago, as a first year medical student I agreed to baby sit my friend’s infant baby. Like many new parents I was worried the sweet little angel would die of crib death. I spent most of the evening checking to see if she was still breathing and in the process I accidentally woke her at least three times.

reduce the risk of SIDSSIDS, also referred to as “crib death,” occurs without warning during sleep; and is the leading cause of death for infants between 1 month and 1 year of age. In 1994 the American Academy of Pediatrics and a number of other organizations began the Back to Sleep Campaign. By 2010 the number of SIDS deaths was reduced from 4,700 to 2,063, and by 2014 only 1,545 died of SIDS. I said only, but any baby’s death is a tragedy of the worst kind.

The focus of the back to sleep campaign was to encourage parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs. That was a hard sell for me, because all of my own four babies and most of my patients’ babies slept on their stomachs. But the research was undeniable, and the results above speak for themselves. Back to Sleep has evolved to Safe to Sleep over the years.

There are many other things you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS. The most important, and most effective, way is to avoid smoking. Paternal smoking, as well as maternal smoking, during pregnancy, and after, increases the risk of SIDS.

Breastfeed Your Baby: Breastfeeding has many health benefits for mother and baby. Babies who are breastfeed, are at lower risk for SIDS than are babies who were never fed breastmilk. Longer duration of exclusive breastfeeding leads to lower risk.

Do not put baby in bed with you or others, including siblings.

Use a firm and flat sleep surface (mattress) covered by a fitted sheet with no pillow or other soft items in the bed.

Do not put soft objects, toy, crib bumpers, or loose bedding under baby or anywhere in Baby’s bed.

Follow the advice from your pediatrician or family doctor during regular well-baby check-ups and make sure he/she gets all recommend vaccines. Vaccines not only protect baby’s health, but research shows that vaccinated babies are at lower risk for SIDS.  Do not listen to friends and media alarmists who tell you vaccines cause autism, or other problems, THEY DO NOT!

Keep your baby comfortably warm, but not too hot. Crib death is higher in babies who are under too many quilts or blankets.  Give him/her the same amount of bed covers as you use, it you’re comfortable your baby will be too.

Give Baby plenty of tummy time when he/she is awake and someone is watching. Obviously this won’t prevent SIDS, but it will assure that baby gets enough time to develop his/her neck, arm, leg, and trunk muscles.

There are other risk factors for SIDS, pre-mature birth for one.  There is no guaranteed way to prevent pre-mature birth, but mothers should have regular prenatal care during pregnancy. The monitoring physician can often finds things to do to reduce the risk. Among them avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and using marijuana or illegal drugs during pregnancy or after the baby is born. Currently, in many parts of the country, illegal drugs, especially heroin and other opiates, are the main causes of pre-maturity.

It is my hope and prayer that none of you will ever have to experience SIDS, every babies death is a tragedy of major importance. If you are pregnant or have a friend who is forward this post to them and help each other follow the advice above. There are no guarantees, but reducing the risk can be done easily.