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Your baby’s sleep position and environment are crucial to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also called cot death) Learn how to create a safe sleep environment to minimize your baby’s risk.

how to prevent sids, safe baby sleep environment

In addition to being pretty and cozy, creating a safe baby sleep environment is extremely important for your baby’s health and even survival. Whether you co-sleep or not, your baby needs a sleeping enviroment that doesn’t make them overheated, roll over too easily to their belly, and that is free from cigarett smoke or parents that have consumed alcohol. (To mention some…)

You have probably heard that there are very strong reasons to teach your baby to fall asleep and sleep on his or her back. And that is that  the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or cot death is a lot lower with back sleeping.

Even if very few babies actually die from SIDS, most parents worry about it, of course.

But in addition to back sleeping, there’s quite a lot parents can do to minimize the risk of SIDS.

Prevent SIDS: Creating a Safe Baby Sleep Environment in 7 Steps

Sleep position: On the back

When the general recommendation came to let infants sleep on their backs, the incidence of SIDS fell everywhere. While there are other factors as well increasing the risk for SIDS, sleeping on the stomach is the highest risk factor your baby. So choose the right sleep position – back sleeping – and let your baby get used to it.

If you’re worried that your baby will choke or get a flat head sleeping on his back, click here for answers.

Pacifier in mouth

Recently it was found that a pacifier actually reduces the risk of SIDS. It is not clear why, but experts believe that the pacifier might make it easier for the baby to wake up, that breathing through the mouth is facilitated and that babies turn less to sleep on their stomachs when using a pacifier.

If you need some tips on how to get your baby to accept a pacifier, click here.

Firm Mattress

A safe baby sleep environment definitely includes a firm mattress. Why? Well, a firm mattress is good to avoid the risk of causing breathing problems in case your baby rolls over to his stomach.

For an organic mattress without any harmful chemicals check out this one at Amazon.

Be careful with blankets and stuffed animals

Be very careful not to place blankets of stuffed animals into the crib in a way so that the baby might pull them over his face.

Consider buying a sleeping bag, something that I’ve used and really like to eliminate the risk that the baby covers its face with a blanket if it is too cold to sleep without some kind of bedding.

Cool sleep temperature

Make sure that your baby is not too warm and that they can move their body. This is important also in his or her stroller.

No smoking around the baby

Smoking both during pregnancy and near the baby after birth has a clear connection with SIDS. For example, smoking during pregnancy increases the risk for SIDS by 3 to 4 times and more, the more the mother smokes.

Smoking while breastfeeding has a lot of negative effects on your baby; read more here.


Breastfeeding appears to lower the risk of SIDS. Different studies show somewhat contradictory results, but there seems to be a slightly lower risk among babies that are breastfed completely for at least four months.

Want more?

Well, these are the present guidelines to help parents reduce the risk of cot death as much as possible. But since research isn’t clear yet on the causes of SIDS, recommendations are likely to continue to develop. Two fairly recent studies in 2007 and then again in 2015 indicated found the same hearing impairment in all babies in the study that had died from SIDS. Hence, it is possible that in the future to identify babies that are at risk for SIDS using a simple hearing test.

These days there are very advanced baby monitors available for anyone who is truly worried and has a budget to buy one. One of the best is the Owlet Smart Sock 2 Baby Monitor, with surveillance of a baby’s breathing and heart rate. (Opens in new window). There are other monitors too, like this cheaper one: the Sense-U Baby Monitor, which monitors movements of the abdomen and thereby changes in breathing rhythm.

For more facts about SIDS, click here.

Research References

Feel free to share any thoughts on how to prevent SIDS and create a safe baby sleep environment by leaving a comment below.

Paula Dennholt
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  1. Zachariah Benney

    Terrific article