Safe Sleep

Definition: Unsafe sleep environments for infants can lead to suffocation, strangulation, or entrapment (NICHD, Common SIDS and SUID Terms and Definitions). The sudden death of an infant under one year of age that does not have an immediately obvious cause is referred to as a Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). Some cases of SUID are due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a term which is applied when no cause of death can be determined even after rigorous investigation (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention SUID/SIDS webpage).

Magnitude of the Problem

Around 3,500 infants die from SUID/SIDS every year in the U.S. (CDC).

  • This is the leading cause of mortality among infants between one and twelve months (NICHD, Fast Facts About SIDS).
  • It is the third leading cause of death among all infants (CDC).
  • Most of these deaths occur between one and four months of age (NICHD, Fast Facts About SIDS).
  • African American and American Indian/Alaska Native babies are more likely to die from SUID/SIDS than Caucasian, Asian American, or Hispanic babies (NICHD, Safe Sleep for Your Baby).


It is possible to reduce the risk of SUID/SIDS. Some safe sleep tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website include:

  • Always place a baby to sleep on his or her back;
  • Place a baby to sleep on a firm surface which is free of soft objects and loose bedding that could trap, strangle, or suffocate the baby;
  • A baby should sleep in the same room as his or her parents, but not in the same bed;
  • Babies should always have their own sleep space to reduce the risk of strangulation or suffocation;
  • Do not place a baby to sleep on chairs or couches;
  • Keep babies away from smoke and those who are smoking;
  • Offer a baby a pacifier at bedtime and naptime; and
  • Do not let a baby overheat.

American Academy of Pediatrics. How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Data and Statistics.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Common SIDS and SUID Terms and Definitions.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Fast Facts About SIDS.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Safe Sleep for Your Baby: Reduce the Risk of SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Causes of Infant Death (General Outreach).

Safe Sleep