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Help Reduce SIDS Risk with Tips for Healthy Sleep for Infants

Mother with baby.

Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children's Hospital invites the community to observe National SIDS Awareness Month during October by learning about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and how to reduce risk.

SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of a child less than 1 year old that remains unexplained after a complete investigation. These deaths often occur during sleep, or in the baby’s sleep area. SIDS is one type of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), which also includes suffocation, entrapment, trauma and cardiac arrhythmias.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3,400 babies in the United States die each year from SUID. Of these, more than 1 in 3 are attributable to SIDS. In 2020, there were about 1,389 deaths due to SIDS, about 1,062 deaths due to unknown causes and about 905 deaths due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. In Georgia, for every 100,000 births, 127.9 infants die from sudden unexpected events including SIDS. That figure is well above the U.S. average of 92.9.

According to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, SIDS is the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age. More than 90 percent of SIDS deaths occur before 6 months of age. Although the cause of SIDS is unknown, there are ways to reduce your infant’s risk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of the following decrease the risk of SIDS:

  • Infants should be placed on their backs to sleep until they reach 1 year of age. Side sleeping is not advised.

  • Babies should be placed on a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress covered by a fitted sheet. No other soft objects, such as blankets or stuffed animals, should be placed near the infant, to reduce risk of suffocation. It is recommended that infants sleep in their parents’ bedroom, on a separate sleep surface, at least for the first six months, but ideally for the first year.

  • Do not cover your baby’s head or allow your baby to get too hot. Signs your baby may be getting too hot include sweating or their chest feeling hot.

  • Feed your baby breastmilk. Babies who are breastfed or are fed expressed breastmilk are at lower risk for SIDS compared with babies who were never fed breastmilk.

  • Mothers should not smoke during pregnancy or after a baby’s birth. Parents are encouraged to set strict rules about smoke-free homes and cars to eliminate second-hand smoke exposure to infants. In addition, mothers should not use alcohol or drugs during pregnancy.

  • Pregnant women should follow their doctor’s guidelines for frequency of prenatal visits. Babies whose mothers obtained regular prenatal care are at a lower risk for SIDS.

  • Recent evidence suggests that vaccines may protect against SIDS. Infants should regularly receive well-baby checkups and should get their shots on time as recommended by their doctor.

“Although SIDS cases have declined in recent years due to the adoption of safe sleep recommendations, the risk to babies is still significant and devastating to thousands of families nationwide each year,” said Dr. Yameika Head, director of Clinical Practice – Pediatrics for Atrium Health Navicent Medical Group, who also serves on the Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office’s Child Fatality Review panel. “Steps to reduce risk begin with proper prenatal care and continue after birth. It’s vital that parents, daycare workers, babysitters and others who provide care for babies learn about the importance of safe sleep practices and protecting babies from second-hand smoke exposure. If you have any questions, ask your baby’s pediatrician.”

Tips for Healthy Sleep Habits

Quality sleep is vital for your baby’s daily routine. Not only do healthy sleep habits help give parents a much-needed break but they also support a baby’s rapid mental and physical development.

  • From birth to 2 months of age: Babies need 16-18 hours of sleep a day. However, many babies sleep better during daytime hours than at night. The best way for parents to help a baby develop a good circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) is to promote more daytime wakefulness and keep lights and stimulation low overnight.

  • At 3-4 months of age: Parents should develop a bedtime routine that is consistent each evening and may include lullabies and rocking. At this age, parents are encouraged to put their baby to bed when drowsy but not fully asleep.

  • By 4 months of age: During the early months of life, babies nap around the clock after brief periods of wakefulness. By this age, most babies are taking a predictable morning nap.

  • At 6-9 months of age: Babies are generally taking two or three predictable naps each day.

Some babies fall asleep easily with little need for rocking or swaying and stay asleep for longer stretches of time. Other babies may fight sleep and wake from sleep entirely at the end of each sleep cycle. For this reason, what works for one baby may backfire on another. After exploring these options, it’s best to tailor your baby’s sleep strategy to meet the needs of your family as a whole.

To find a pediatrician or pediatric specialist, and to learn about our children’s services, visit


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