Back to Sleep! A Campaign Against SIDS

By Joanna Franks and Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D.

NRC for Women and Families joins the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other groups that are reminding parents and caregivers about the correct way for infants to be placed for naps or sleeping. To avoid sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), babies should sleep on their backs. It’s easy to remember: “Back to Sleep!”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant under one year of age, which strikes nearly 4,000 babies in the United States every year. The causes of SIDS are still unclear, but experts have identified some key factors that can reduce the risk of SIDS, and are attempting to make this information known.

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that healthy babies should be placed on their backs or sides to sleep. In 1996, the AAP modified its recommendation, stating that placing babies to sleep on their backs has the lowest risk and is preferred. As a result of this recommendation and the increase in awareness produced by the AAP’s Back to Sleep campaign, SIDS deaths in the United States have declined by about 30% between 1992 and 1995.

Tragically, many parents and caregivers still place babies on their stomachs to sleep. A recent survey released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission reveals that only 43% of American parents put their babies to sleep on their backs. For many years, parents did not place babies to sleep on their backs because they believed that the babies would choke on their spit up. Unfortunately, many caregivers, especially older babysitters and older family members, still believe this false information and subsequently incorrectly advise parents and other caregivers. The recent survey also fouund that only 31% of African American parents compared to 47% of Caucasian parents and 38% of Hispanic parents place their babies to sleep on their backs.

You can save a baby’s life by making sure that everyone who cares for your baby, or your friend’s or relative’s baby, knows to place babies on their “Back to Sleep.”

Safety Tips for Sleeping Babies

If your baby is under 12 months old, you can help prevent SIDS, suffocation, and strangulation by following these three tips:

  • Place your baby to sleep on his or her back.
  • Remove all soft bedding from the crib.
  • Put your baby to sleep in a safe crib.

Why follow these tips?

  • Babies who sleep on their backs have a much lower risk of dying from SIDS or suffocation.
  • A baby can suffocate from soft bedding in a crib. Be sure to remove all pillows, quilts, comforters, and sheepskins from your crib.

A safe crib is the best place for your baby to sleep. Make sure your crib has:

  • no missing or broken hardware, and slats no more than 2 3/8″ apart
  • no corner posts over 1/16″ high
  • no cutout designs in the headboard or footboard
  • a firm, tight-fitting mattress
  • a safety certification seal (on new cribs)