December 18th, 2008
04:40 PM ET

How can parents reduce the risk of SIDS?

As a new feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

Asked by Tom, Avon, Maine

"As a father of a newborn, I am wondering what is the best way to prevent SIDS?"


Congrats, Tom, on becoming a new parent! I am a dad of two girls, with a third on the way, so I understand the concerns that come with that responsibility.

Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, is a pretty common concern among parents. By definition it’s an unexplained death of a healthy baby, but it typically happens while they sleep. There is no clear reason why it occurs, but there are some things we know that work to lower a baby’s risk.

Many studies have showed that simply placing your baby on his or her back can dramatically reduce the risk of SIDS. You should also choose a firm crib mattress. You don’t want the baby to sink in a soft surface that could potentially block their airway. Also, don’t keep blankets and bedding in the crib with your newborn. Rather, put the baby in a sleeper, as opposed to putting a lot of bedding around the baby, and keep the face and head uncovered at all times during sleep.

And be empowered to share what you know about SIDS with your friends, family and your babies day-care facility. Don’t assume others watching your child will know the best way to reduce the risk. It occurs most often in babies 2 to 4 months, and rarely occurs after age 1.

One thing not to worry about is the common belief among some parents that childhood vaccines may cause SIDS. The American Academy of Pediatrics investigated the claim and found no link.

Bottom line Tom, as parents we can all do our best to provide a safe and healthy environment for our children but with something as uncertain as SIDS, there is often no explanation.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.