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Babies' Sleep Position and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

British Columbia Specific Information

Safe Sleeping

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) occurs when a baby dies suddenly while sleeping. SIDS is most common between 2 and 4 months of age. It is important that your baby always has a safe place to sleep. Click on the links below to learn more.

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken baby syndrome is a term used to describe the signs and symptoms resulting from shaking a baby. These injuries often happen because a parent or caregiver gets frustrated with the baby's crying, temporarily loses control and violently shakes the baby. Click on the links below to learn more.

To help prevent or report child abuse, call the Helpline for Children toll-free at 310-1234 (no area code needed). If there is immediate danger call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.

Topic Overview

Many studies have shown that placing a baby younger than 1 year old to sleep on his or her back is the most important thing parents can do to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The number of babies who sleep on their back has gone up (due mostly to the national "Back to Sleep" campaign), and there has been a steady drop in the SIDS rate.footnote 1

Placing babies to sleep on their backs reduces the risk of SIDS. Side sleeping was also recommended in the past, but it is much easier for babies to roll to their stomachs from their sides than from their backs. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, do not place your baby to sleep on his or her side or stomach.

For the first 6 months, have your baby sleep in a crib, cradle, or bassinet in the same room where you sleep. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that you don't ever sleep with your baby in the same bed, especially if you smoke or have used alcohol, illegal drugs, or medicine that makes you sleep very soundly (sedatives).

Never sleep with a baby on a couch or armchair. And it is not safe to place your baby on a couch to sleep. It is not safe to place your baby in a car seat, sling, swing, bouncer, or stroller to sleep. The safest place for a baby is in a crib, cradle, or bassinet that meets safety standards.

In rare cases, a doctor may recommend a different sleeping position if your baby has certain health problems.

As babies mature, they learn to roll from their backs to their stomachs. Babies who roll onto their stomachs during sleep do not need to be continually shifted onto their backs. But always initially place them to sleep on their backs.

When your baby is awake and someone is watching, allow your baby to spend some time on his or her stomach ("tummy time"). This may be good for the baby's development and may help prevent flat spots on the back part of the head.

References

Citations

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada, et al. (2011). Joint Statement on Safe Sleep: Preventing Sudden Infant Deaths in Canada. Available online: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/dca-dea/stages-etapes/childhood-enfance_0-2/sids/pdf/jsss-ecss2011-eng.pdf.

Credits

Current as of:
May 27, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Chuck Norlin MD - Pediatrics
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics