Place infants on their backs for sleep on a firm, flat mattress with fitted sheets and no other bedding or objects.
Infants should always be placed to sleep on their backs until the child reaches 1 year of age, the report states, advising not to place them prone (on their bellies) or on their sides. Once an infant is able to roll both ways (front to back and back to front), they do not need to be flipped back over if they roll themselves. “Infants should be on a firm, flat, non-inclined sleeping surface with only fitted sheets,” says Dr. Carlin. Make sure that no other bedding or soft objects, such as pillows, pillowlike toys, quilts, or comforters, to name a few, are surrounding the baby. Doing this can reduce the risk of suffocation, wedging, or entrapment from loose or soft objects.
Whenever possible, feed breast milk instead of formula.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding is associated with a decreased risk of SIDS. One study found that breastfeeding babies for just two months reduced the risk of SIDS by half. “Studies have shown that the longer a baby is exclusively fed human milk, the lower their SIDS risk,” says Dr. Carlin. “But receiving any human milk has also been found to reduce the rate of SIDS compared to babies who are only fed formula.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants be fed with human milk exclusively for about six months, continuing until they are 2 years old or older.
Share a room, but not a bed.
When infants sleep in the same room as their parents or caregivers, but not in their parents’ bed, the risk for SIDS drops by as much as 50%, the Pediatrics report states. Since sleep-related deaths are highest before 6 months of age, room sharing during this period is especially important. “Parents or caregivers can more easily feed their infants and check in on them while they sleep in their crib or bassinet since they are in the same room,” says Dr. Carlin.
Use a pacifier.
Offering a pacifier to the infant during naptime and bedtime is also encouraged. Studies have found that pacifiers can protect infants from SIDS. “Babies do not have to keep the pacifier in their mouth the whole time they are sleeping,” says Dr. Carlin. “If they go to sleep with the pacifier, it has been found to cause a reduction in SIDS prevalence.” For breastfeeding infants, it is recommended that pacifier introduction be delayed until breastfeeding is firmly established, which can take varying amounts of time.
Practice supervised tummy time.
The safest way to put babies to sleep is on their backs, but it is important for parents and caregivers to do daily tummy time when babies are awake. This will help them develop gross motor skills and avoid a flat head, also known as positional plagiocephaly. By 7 weeks of age, infants should be doing at least 15 to 30 minutes total every day. “Tummy time can generally begin as soon as infants are home from the hospital and can increase incrementally,” says Dr. Carlin. “It helps their neck muscles get stronger, so they get better head control, and builds their abdominal muscles.”
Stay up to date with vaccinations.
Infants should be immunized in accordance with guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no scientific evidence of any link between vaccinations and SIDS. In fact, vaccinations, the report states, may have a protective effect against SIDS.
Read the complete list of recommendations here.