Be alert to the winter SIDS risk

The cold winter months bring an increase in the number of infants who die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the National Institutes of Health.

Extra blankets, night clothes can increase risk

During colder months, parents often place extra blankets or night clothes on infants, hoping to provide them with extra warmth. In fact, the extra material may actually increase infants’ risk for SIDS. “Parents and caregivers should be careful not to put too many layers of clothing or blankets on infants, as overheating increases the risk of SIDS,” says Duane Alexander, MD, director of the NICHD. “Of course, parents and caregivers should always place infants to sleep on their backs at nighttime and at naptime.”

For almost a decade, the NICHD has led the Back to Sleep campaign, which recommends that, unless there’s a medical reason not to, infants should be placed on their backs to sleep, on a firm mattress with no blankets or fluffy bedding under or over them. If a blanket is used, it should be placed no higher than a baby’s chest and be tucked in under the crib mattress.

The baby’s crib or sleep area should be free of pillows and stuffed toys, and the temperature in the baby’s room should be kept at a level that feels comfortable for an adult.

Since the NICHD campaign began, the overall rate of SIDS in the US has declined by more than 50 percent. Despite this progress, SIDS claims the lives of roughly 2,500 infants each year.

Reducing risk
SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant in the first year of life. The causes of SIDS are still unclear, and while it is not yet possible to predict which infants might fall victim to SIDS, it is possible to reduce factors known to increase SIDS risk:


  • Always place a baby to sleep on his or her back, even at naptime
  • Don’t smoke around a baby
  • Don’t smoke if you’re pregnant
  • Place a baby on a firm mattress, such as in a safety-approved crib
  • Remove soft, fluffy bedding and stuffed toys from a baby’s sleep areas
  • Keep blankets and other coverings away from a baby’s nose and mouth
  • Don’t put too many layers of clothing or blankets on a baby
  • Make sure everyone who cares for a baby knows that infants should be placed to sleep on their backs and the other ways to reduce SIDS risk
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