Last year around this time I wrote about sleep. And I still tout its value for all of us every chance I get, but today I want to talk about safe sleep for our tiniest of humans. All caregivers should follow these recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and other sleep-related deaths.

1. Back to sleep for every sleep. To reduce the risk of SIDS, infants should be placed for sleep fully on their backs for every sleep by every caregiver until they are 1 year of age. Side sleeping is not safe and is not advised.

2. Use a firm sleep surface. Infants should be placed on a firm sleep surface (eg, mattress in a safety-approved crib) covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding or soft objects to reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation.

3. Keep soft objects and loose bedding away from the infant’s sleep area to reduce the risk of SIDS, suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation.

4. It is recommended that infants sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for the first year of life, but at least for the first 6 months. There is evidence that sleeping in the parents’ room, but on a separate surface decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%. In addition, this arrangement is most likely to prevent suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment that may occur when the infant is sleeping in the adult bed. Co-sleeping arrangements are not recommended.

5. Breastfeeding is recommended. Breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS. Mothers should breastfeed exclusively or feed with expressed milk (ie, not offer any formula or other nonhuman milk-based supplements) for 6 months, in alignment with recommendations of the AAP.

6. Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. Although exactly why is unclear, studies have reported a protective effect of pacifiers on the incidence of SIDS.

7. Avoid smoke exposure during pregnancy and after birth. Both maternal smoking during pregnancy and smoke in the infant’s environment after birth are major risk factors for SIDS.

8. Avoid alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth. There is an increased risk of SIDS with prenatal and postnatal exposure to alcohol or illicit drug use.

9. Avoid overheating. Studies have shown an increased risk of SIDS with overheating.

10. Infants should be immunized in accordance with recommendations of the AAP and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no evidence that there is a causal relationship between immunizations and SIDS. In fact, recent evidence suggests that vaccination may have a protective effect against SIDS.

So whether you are a mom, dad, grandma, babysitter, daycare provider, or someone else caring for an infant, follow these guidelines to keep the babies in your life safe. And watch our latest video showing these best practices: http://wdt.me/sleepsafe.

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