According to data from the CDC, “there are about 3,400 sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) in the United States” each year.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which falls under SUID, “is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old.”

As a pediatrician and parent, I know how scary it can be for parents expecting a baby to think about SIDS. Luckily, there are concrete, evidence-based steps you can take to keep your baby safe. Prenatal care, sleep position and environment and feeding choice can all influence your child’s likelihood of safe sleep.

Keep reading to see four guidelines for reducing the risk of SIDS.

Healthy parents

During pregnancy, mom’s health of course affects baby’s health — when you eat that Caesar salad, you know baby is getting it later! But prenatal health also affects the baby after birth. A lack of prenatal care and smoking during pregnancy have been shown to increase the risks for SIDS. There is also an increased risk of SIDS when parents drink alcohol or use illicit drugs once the baby has arrived.

In other words, when parents have healthy habits, they help keep their baby safe.

Back to sleep, tummy to play

It’s more likely that the baby will inhale their own breath, which can lead to carbon dioxide buildup and low oxygen levels.

It causes upper airway obstruction.

It can interfere with body heat dissipation, leading to overheating.

It can make babies less reactive to noise.

It can cause sudden decreases in blood pressure and heart rate control.

Tummy-sleepers may move less, having higher arousal thresholds and longer periods of deep sleep.

But what if the baby suffers from bad reflux? Back-sleeping is still best.

To help babies strengthen their trunk muscles and reach motor milestones, a little tummy time each day is recommended. Start with just three minutes two times a day and work up from there as your baby gets more comfortable with it. And it doesn’t just have to be on the floor: Snuggling with your baby on your chest, as you recline slightly, counts as tummy time, too!

Safe sleep environment

In addition to sleep position, a safe sleep environment helps prevent SIDS, too. Check out for a great example of a safe sleep environment. You’ll notice these elements:

A sleeping area in the parents’ room but not in their bed.

No loose bedding or soft objects like crib bumpers.

A set of pajamas that keeps the baby at a comfortable temperature.

You may be tempted to get crib bumpers to prevent injury by crib slats. But while a fractured bone in your little one will heal, the same cannot be said of SIDS. If you’re worried about your child getting stuck in or twisting their legs between crib slats, you can get a mesh bumper for the crib.

Breastfeeding and pacifier

While experts are not certain why, having your baby use a pacifier while sleeping can reduce the risk of SIDS. One study found that the use of pacifiers during sleep reduced the risk of SIDS by 90 percent. If your baby doesn’t take to the pacifier right away, don’t worry! Try again when the baby is calm, and try the tips at .

Breastfeeding can also help reduce SIDS risk. As the American Academy of Pediatrics explains, “The protective effect of breastfeeding increases with exclusivity. However, any breastfeeding has been shown to be more protective against SIDS than no breastfeeding.”

Some babies do great with breastfeeding; others have a hard time. The good news is that even breastfeeding for a little bit can help keep your baby safe.

As you prepare for the arrival of your baby, there’s a lot you may be worried about. But with a little education and support, you can be confident that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe.

Visit to find a pediatrician you can trust to support you as you raise your little one.

Joseph Hershkop is an M.D. at Utah Valley Pediatrics.

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