The 4-Safety Program

Sleep Safety

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) contributes to about 3,500 infant deaths annually. Infants are at greatest risk for sleep-related deaths and SUID until four months of age. The risk, while lower, continues until the baby is one year old.

What Is Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)?

Sudden unexpected infant death is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby one year old or younger with no obvious cause. These deaths often happen during the child’s sleep or in their sleep area.

SUID includes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); accidental suffocation or strangulation while sleeping or in the sleeping environment; sudden natural deaths, such as from metabolic or cardiac disorders; and deaths from other unknown causes. 

Although there is no definitive cause of SUID, there are several risk factors associated with it, particularly with a child’s sleep. Learn how to reduce these risk factors so your child can sleep safely.

Create a Safe Sleep Environment

Creating a safe sleep environment is a crucial part of lowering the risk of SUID. Remember these safe sleep ABCs:


B – On their Back

C – In a Crib

Create a safe sleep environment for your infant by giving them their own space to sleep such as a crib or bassinet, place them on their back, and let them sleep alone without any extras in the crib. Follow the ABCs every time, whether it is bedtime or naptime. 

Keep Their Crib Empty

Your child is safest sleeping with only a firm mattress and tightly fitted sheet. Decorating your infant’s crib with blankets, stuffed animals and crib bumpers can become a suffocation hazard. A positioning device or wedge can also add to their risk of SUID.

sleeping baby
Image courtesy of the Safe to Sleep campaign

Place Them on Their Back

Infants should sleep on their back, as staying face up keeps the airway open. Sleeping on their stomach or side covers the airway. Your infant is also less likely to choke on regurgitation when placed on their back due to the positioning of the esophagus and trachea, making it more difficult for regurgitation to reach the lungs. 

Take Precaution If You’re Feeling Tired

Newborns require round the clock care and it is not easy to stay awake. If you think there is any chance you may fall asleep while feeding or caring for your infant, move to your bed and clear all of your sheets and blankets from the area. Although having your infant with you on an adult bed is safer than falling asleep with them on a couch or chair, about half of all SUID cases occur when babies share a bed, couch or chair with another person. This means you should still make every effort to place your child in their own space.

Make Sure Every Sleep Is a Safe Sleep

Make sure your child has a safe sleep environment for every sleep by telling others who may care for your child about these safe sleep practices. Grandparents, older siblings, babysitters, and other caregivers all want to keep your baby safe while you are away. Infants who spend most of their time sleeping on their back and are then put to sleep on their stomach are 18 times more likely to die from SUID.

Tips to Reduce the Risk of SUID

  • Use a firm and flat sleep surface for your child.
  • Breastfeed your baby.
  • Share your room (but not your bed) with your baby.
  • Do not smoke during your pregnancy and do not allow others to smoke near your baby.
  • Do not allow your baby to get too hot during sleep.
  • Follow your pediatrician’s suggestions on check-ups and vaccinations.
  • Between sleep, allow for tummy time to strengthen their neck and shoulder muscles while preventing a flat spot on the back of their head.
  • Offer a pacifier at bedtime.
  • Avoid using infant seats, car seats, strollers, infant carriers, and infant swings for sleep and naps.
  • Always place cribs and bassinets in hazard-free areas.

View additional SUID resources

Learn More about Sleep Safety

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers recommendations for safe sleep, and includes the personal story of a family who lost their child due to unsafe sleep practices.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission gives tips on infant sleep safety.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission hosts a crib safety Q&A.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development explains safe sleep for grandparents and other caregivers. 

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development explains safe sleep for grandparents and other caregivers.

The US Centers for Disease Control gives vital updates on safe sleep for babies.