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Safe Sleep Tips for Parents: 6 Ways to Keep Baby Safe

Sadly, thousands of babies die each year due to sudden unexpected infant death syndrome (SUIDS), the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year of age that doesn’t have a known cause, but could be related to heart or neurologic problems. SUIDS also includes unsafe sleeping conditions leading to accidental suffocation or strangulation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)s. Babies are at risk in their first month of life, but more commonly at 1 months to 4 months old and often their sleep-environment can play a factor. While SUIDS is the leading cause of death for ages one month to one year, the good news is, it can be preventable in many cases. During SIDS awareness month in October, Prem Fort, M.D., a neonatologist at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital shares what parents can do to protect their tiny bundle of joy.

Six Ways to Keep Baby Safe and Provide a Safe Sleep Environment

There is no way to 100 percent prevent SIDS/SUIDS, but there are many ways to reduce your baby’s risk:

  • Use/buy a newer crib—Babies should only sleep in a crib (not in bed with parents, on couch, in car seat etc.), but it’s also important to avoid purchasing an older crib, play yard or bassinet that’s not up to safety standards. Cribs should have slats that are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.
  • Make note of surroundings—Never place a crib near a window with blinds/cords or anything baby could reach.
  • Place baby on back in bare crib – Not only should your baby be on their back but there should not be anything in the bed. This includes bumper pads, pillows, blankets/covers or positioning devices/wedges that could cause accidental suffocation or strangulation.
  • Keep it cool—Keep the temperature in your baby’s bedroom cool to avoid overheating.
  • Breastfeed When Possible—Several recent studies show breastmilk has protective effects against SIDS, not to mention it can boost baby’s immune system and supports brain health.
  • Don’t expose baby to smoke– Avoid smoking or having anyone in/around the house smoke before or after birth as this could affect baby’s breathing.

Following the tips above will help to prevent accidental injuries and suffocation. Many new parents may still worry and check on newborns during the night to see if they are still breathing. Remember, if their chest is rising and you hear light breaths and see normal coloring, they are likely just fine. However, heavy or consistent rapid breathing and no chest movement warrants a call to your pediatrician, or in an emergency, call 9-1-1.

For more advice on safe sleeping, visit

About the Author: Dr. Prem Fort is a neonatologist at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Maternal, Fetal & Neonatal Institute. He is co-chair for the institute’s Research and Quality Network and its Research Council. Dr. Fort began his medical career at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru before moving to the United States and completing an undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He earned his medical degree from the University Of North Carolina School of Medicine and completed his pediatric residency at Duke University Medical Center. He worked as a community pediatrician and a hospitalist in the neonatal intensive care unit for three years at Duke Health System, Jersey Shore Medical Center, and Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center in the U.S Virgin Islands before completing his fellowship in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Dr. Fort’s research focus includes control of breathing and apnea of premature infants, specifically as it relates to its management with caffeine, and minimally invasive ways to give surfactant in preterm infants. He has performed and continues to be actively involved in multicenter clinical trials. He is involved in several hospital committees and is an active educator within the NICU community through social media. He is an active member and sits on subcommittees of the American Association of SIDS Prevention Physicians (AASPP) and the International Society for the Study and Prevention of Perinatal and Infant Death (ISPID).


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