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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Protective Factors

What Protects Babies from SIDS?

Back to Sleep: Putting babies to sleep on their backs dramatically reduces the likelihood of reduction in SIDS. This led to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending this in its 1992 "Back to Sleep Campaign" for all healthy infants less than 1 year of age. Since this recommendation, SIDS rates have dropped by more than 50 percent. Some parents are worried that their baby will develop a flat spot on the back of their heads from lying on their back all the time. This condition is easily prevented by allowing for more "tummy time" while your baby is awake during the day. Many parents are worried that their baby will choke on a spit-up if they are sleeping on their backs, but there is no increased risk of this happening to healthy infants who sleep on their backs.

Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding of any duration is associated with a lower risk of SIDS. The protective effect is strongest with exclusive breastfeeding.

Room sharing: Sleeping in the parental bedroom reduces the risk of SIDS by 50 percent. It is thought that this is because infants that sleep in the parental bedroom are less likely to suffocate because the nearby parents are more likely to be feeding, comforting and monitoring.

Pacifiers: Pacifiers appear protect the infant from SIDS. However, the introduction of the pacifier is best left until after breastfeeding has started.

Prenatal care: There is evidence from several research studies that there is a lower risk of SIDS for infants whose mothers received regular prenatal care.

Routine immunizations: Recent evidence suggests that immunizations may have a protective effect against SIDS.

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Page Last Updated: March 13, 2018

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