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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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Elizabeth

    To reiterate one point - MAKE SURE TO SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH ANYONE WHO IS GOING TO KEEP YOUR BABY. A friend of ours had a baby and did everything she was supposed to do. She left the child with an older caregiver who had years of experience with babies. This woman believed that babies should be put down on their stomachs. Our friend's baby died of SIDS while in this woman's care. Please make sure you make your rules known and make sure they will be followed. What we didn't know 20 years ago can hurt a child.

    December 19, 2008 at 23:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Gina

    I believe there is not enough research that has been done on vaccinations and SIDS. I have a friend who's child died 2 days after being vaccinated. They are being paid through the injury fund and they did find the vaccinations were a contributor to the death. They would not be paid if that was not the case...

    December 22, 2008 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. DrD11

    As the proverb says:"You are what you eat",attention should be
    drawn to what the newborn and his mother take:Food,medication
    immunization etc.
    A newborn,especially the premature,are in a huge process of building and maturing its body.There is an overload of building material:Proteins and lipids.Cholesterol,is specialy in over -supply.Cholesterol concentration is the highest in the brain.
    We all know that too much LDL is no good.We also know that too little HDL is no good either.We are aware of the"Metabolic syndrome of pregnancy" and ecclampsia,with hypertensive crisis arrythmias and fetal demise.
    Same train of event is possible in newborns.
    It behoves us to do the best and prevent Sudden Cardiac Death.

    December 24, 2008 at 00:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Matt

    What about the studies that have linked SIDS to the abnormal production of seratonin from the brainstem? Seratonin is responsible for the regulation of breathing rate and depth, among other things. If the level of CO2 in the body becomes too elevated or depressed the breathing rate will change to help normalize the level to a less toxic amount. Most children are able to do this from the moment they are born. If your child has an atlanto occipital misalignment (a misalignment between the base of the skull and the first bone in his neck) the seratonin level in his body may not be high enough to properly regulate the CO2 in his body which can be deadly if it gets too high. The only way to be sure there is no atlanto occipital misalignment in his spine is to take him to a chiropractor that is trained in the treatment of children and infants. In addition to what Dr. Gupta said this must be done to make sure your child's body is healing and functioning without any interference. Tom I wish you luck and a long life with the new miracle in your life.

    January 11, 2009 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jason S.

    Excellent post Dr. Gupta. Another site with great SIDS information is http://www.howtopreventsids.com

    Remember parents, share your knowledge!

    March 12, 2009 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Cathi Kelly

    Was an excellent article. It should had included that there are ways to reduce to risks of SIDS but SIDS can't be prevented. There is a need for more medical research, to mandate a nationwide standard of reporting and investigating infant deaths and a national registry for sudden unexpected infant deaths. Thanks for promoting the awareness of SIDS and the risks factors.

    April 20, 2009 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Doug Bruce

    I'm a Great Grandfather and I've wondered if placing a slow moving fan in the nursery, aimed at the crib would help keep refreshing the air around the baby's head and prevent a buildup of carbon dioxide. It doesn't have to be category 5 storm just a gentle zephyr. Just a thought.

    February 4, 2010 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply

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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.