Seven Steps to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

Posted on February 11, 2010. Filed under: SIDS | Tags: , |

HERE is a link to Dr. Sears website where he discusses the seven steps to reduce the risk of SIDS.

The seven steps include…

  1. Give your baby a healthy womb environment.
  2. Do not allow smoke around your baby – pre or postnatally.
  3. Put your baby to sleep on his back or side, not on his stomach.
  4. Breastfeed your baby
  5. Give your baby a safe sleeping environment.
  6. Avoid overheating your baby during sleep.
  7. Practice the “high-touch” style of attachment parenting.

I am picking out a few major points. The article is long but well worth the read.

Most of these seem pretty obvious to me. They are biologically sound. SIDS used to be a mysterious tragedy but researchers have since found that the number one way to reduce SIDS is to put babies on their backs. The Dr. Sears article says…

Between 1989 and 1993 SIDS researchers in cooperation with the British government launched a “Back to Sleep” campaign, advising parents to put their babies to sleep on their backs rather than their stomachs. A few years after this risk-reduction campaign was launched in England, SIDS rates plummeted throughout the United Kingdom by as much as seventy percent. A similar “Back to Sleep” SIDS-reduction campaign occurred in New Zealand and Australia followed by a fifty percent decrease in national SIDS rates in these two countries. The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Ireland saw a similar decrease in SIDS rates following “Back to Sleep” campaigns in these countries. Eight countries doing similar risk-reduction campaigns and all getting similar results. This had to be more than a coincidence. These findings were a breakthrough in SIDS-prevention research – and in SIDS-prevention attitude. Instead of the previous belief – that SIDS was a mysterious and hopeless tragedy – the changing sleep-position advice was finally something practical that professionals could agree upon and parents could do.

In 1994, the U.S. Public Health Service organized a national “Back to Sleep” campaign, and it paid off. In the past few years, SIDS rates have dropped around 30 to 40 percent in the United States.

I do find it interesting that later in the article a few points are made about babies who may be better off tummy sleeping…


Be sure to check with your doctor to see if your baby has any medical conditions that necessitate front sleeping. Babies who should sleep prone are the following:

• Premature babies with respiratory problems still in the hospital; sleeping on the tummy increases breathing efficiency in prematures with compromised breathing, but not necessarily when their lungs are normal

• Babies with small jawbones or other structural abnormalities that may compromise the airway when sleeping on their fronts• Babies who have mucous-producing respiratory infections or profuse drooling associated with teething – if so advised by your doctor

• Babies who are extremely restless and settle poorly unless sleeping prone

• Babies who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux (GER).

My son probably would have benefited from tummy sleeping earlier on. He was a terrible sleeper. At six weeks old he was only sleeping about 8 hours out of 24. He did sleep well on his tummy but I was so bent on following ‘the rules’ that I didn’t go with my instinct. Later in the article Dr. Sears says…

What if my baby prefers sleeping on her tummy?Unless advised to the contrary by your doctor, it is best to let your baby sleep in a position she prefers. If baby doesn’t settle well, or stay on her back or side, front sleeping is all right. Also, you may find that your baby prefers different sleep positions at different ages. After all, there is a meaningful wisdom of the body, even in a baby. If a baby repeatedly doesn’t settle in a certain sleeping position, this may be a clue that this position may not be the safest for this individual baby. This is just one example of how babies often try to tell us what is in their best interest. Parents should not be afraid to listen.

He does go on to say to try to teach back sleeping if possible. My son ended up rolling from back to front at about three months old so it was pointless for me anyway as I would put him on his back asleep and he would just roll himself right over. I guess he knew what he wanted!

I also like that Dr. Sears gives 8 reasons why breastfeeding reduces SIDS…

There are hundreds of substances in human milk that aren’t in artificial milk. These cannot be manufactured or bought; they can only be made by mother. Each year researchers discover new factors in human milk that are beneficial to baby. I suspect that researchers have only scratched the surface of what amazing factors exist in human milk. The following is what we know. What is even more intriguing is what we do not yet know about how human milk benefits human babies in general and how it lowers the risk of SIDS in particular.

1. Breastmilk fights against infection

2. Breastmilk builds better brains.

. Breastmilk is kinder to tiny airways.

4. Breastfeeding reduces reflux.

5. Breastfeeding promotes safer sleep.

6. Breastfeeding organizes baby.

7. Breastfeeding increases mother’s awareness

8. Breastmilk improves breathing/swallowing coordination.

Check out the article to get more details on the 8 reasons why breastfeeding reduces SIDS.

The last point Dr. Sears makes is…

Ever since parenting books found their way into the nursery, sleep trainers have touted magic formulas promising to get babies to sleep through the night. Most are just the old cry-it-out method in disguise, and technology has also provided us with a variety of sleep-inducing gadgets designed to lull baby off to sleep alone in his crib. Oscillating cradles, crib vibrators that mimic a car ride, and teddy bears that “breathe” all promise to fill in for parents on night duty.

While sleep-training may be necessary for some babies, for others it may be unrealistic, even risky. Be discerning about using someone else’s technique to get your baby to sleep. Weigh these schemes on your inner-sensitivity scale before trying them with your baby.

Especially in the first six months, avoid sleep trainers who advise you to let your baby “cry it out.” Only you know what “it” is and how to respond appropriately to your baby. The first SIDS baby in my practice awakened frequently. Her mother responded intuitively to her and nursed her back to sleep. When that baby was four months of age, a friend warned this mother that she was “spoiling that baby and that she should let her cry it out.” That night her cries went unanswered – permanently. While there is no scientific evidence that sleep-training causes SIDS, the memory of my first SIDS patients has made me wary of the hard-line approach to getting babies to sleep through the night.

I believe that training babies to sleep too deeply, too long, too soon, while convenient to parents, is not in a baby’s best biological interest. Sleep- training done before their cardiopulmonary control mechanisms are mature enough to handle prolonged deep sleep could be risky. Training a baby to fall asleep and stay asleep alone in his own room in his own crib may be the “modern” way, but for some infants sleeping lighter and for shorter stretches may be the safer way.

We co-slept with my son until about 5 months old. Once he started sleeping 5-6 hour stretches I put him in his crib in his own room. I will admit at 6 months I did do a little cry it out with 5 minute intervals. I would put him down and if he cried I would let him cry for 5 minutes (I would stand outside his door and time it!) then go back in and help settle him. It did teach him to fall asleep on his on. It worked for us but I would never do it before 6 months old and I would never let a baby cry for more than 5 minutes.

I think this is a great article though. It’s good a lot of good tips and sound parenting advice.

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6 Responses to “Seven Steps to Reduce the Risk of SIDS”

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thank you!!!! Due to their reflux and all…our ped advised us putting Thomas and Maddy to sleep in their carseat. It was a snuggly environment and they were tilted upright…..they would have preferred the belly sleep. We did this almost 4 months…..I am doing the same now with Morgan as I was at my wits end with this colic and she is sleeping all night. YAA!!!! She sleeps from almost 11pm to 5am. I will continue until I feel we have this down pat and then begin to transition her to her bed. Thanks for all the info!!!! You are the best! I just heard of another SIDS death from a friend of a friend….scary …so very scary!

Great article! (Yours and Sears’) We tried CIO one night unsuccessfully at 6 months, with me standing outside the door the whole time and going in every few minutes. Incidentally that was the same night he learned to pull up to standing in his crib but couldn’t lay back down. I felt like a horrible parent for letting him cry and continued to nurse him back to sleep until he was 13 months old and finally mostly started sleeping through the night. (He would never co-sleep after the first two months; bringing him to bed with me was like giving him caffeine, ha ha!) Anyway, as exhausted as I was those 13 months, I don’t regret it – we had a great bond through our night ritual and it is paying off now – as a toddler he takes 3-4 hour naps (I have to wake him up) and sleeps all night, and bedtime / naptime are fuss-free. Definitely worth it.

Hi! I am currently working on a group project where we are trying to come up with a SIDS monitor that works and I was wondering if you might have a link or a copy of that Dr. Sears article or know where I could get a copy? We are trying to focus on the fact that awareness is a key factor in keeping SIDS down. Thanks!

Hi Brandon,

The first word of the article is hyperlinked and goes straight to Dr. Sear’s site. Great project you are working on, keep up the good work!


I am so glad i found this article my son is 4 months old and i have been scared to death of sids he is my third child and i was the same way with my two older daughters who never really had trouble sleeping, my oldest slept threw the night at one month and i had stuff going after my second daughter was born that made me so clingy i co-slept (still co-sleep lol) so i vowed not to co-sleep with my son but the Drs around here use serious scare tactics when it comes to sids and i ende up doing it once again (mind you this means having a 4 month old AND a 21 month old both in bed with us) but i have recently started trying to evict the little ones from our bed and at first he wouldn’t sleep more than 20 minutes at a time and then he started rolling on to his tummy to sleep and sleeps much better but has me up most me the night watching him breath because the Drs have ingrained the fact that it is ‘dangerous’ in to my brain. i feel guilty and feel like in putting his life at risk in exchange for a couple more hours of sleep which in turn makes me lose sleep even more. this article has made me feel so much better thank you

Actually my second daughter I lost to SIDS was in the LMP position meaning there was no way she could be born naturally. She was in a face presentation birth LMP position . It was a very traumatic birth for both of us. I did go on later after having two c sections and a surgery for Endometrosis to have two natural child births with my son and youngest daughter. If I had more knowledge back then I would have requested she come home on an apnea monitor.

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