SIDS is the sudden, unexpected death—that doesn’t have a known cause even after a full investigation—of a baby between 1 month and 1 year of age.
About half of the sudden, unexpected infant deaths that occur in the United States each year are from SIDS.
Since the 1990s, when the U.S. back-sleeping recommendations were first released and public awareness efforts began, the overall U.S. SIDS rate has dropped by about 60 percent. This lower rate equals thousands of babies’ lives. Since then, the number of babies placed on their backs to sleep has tripled.
But, as SIDS rates have declined, deaths from other sleep- related causes, such as suffocation, have increased, and certain groups remain at higher risk for SIDS than others.
For example, African American and American Indian/Alaska Native babies are at higher risk for SIDS than white, Hispanic, or Asian/ Pacific Islander babies. So there is still work to do to save infant lives.
Babies who sleep on their backs are much less likely to die of SIDS than babies who sleep on their stomachs or sides.
Babies should sleep on their backs for naps and at night. Babies who are used to sleeping on their backs but who are then placed on their stomachs, like for a nap, are at very high risk for SIDS.
Babies who sleep on a soft surface, such as an adult mattress, or under a soft covering, such as a soft blanket or quilt, are more likely to die of SIDS or suffocation. These deaths also are more likely when soft objects, toys, and blankets are in the baby’s sleep area.