The #1 Way to Reduce the Risk of SIDS and Why I Never Co-Slept with my Babies

baby sleeping in crib

SUID is the leading cause of death for infants between 1 month and 1 year of age. What is SUID? Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID). According to the CDC, the term describes the sudden and unexpected death of a baby less than 1 year old in which the cause was not obvious before investigation. These deaths often happen during sleep or in the baby’s sleep area.

SIDS is a subset of SUID. A SUID death might be from suffocation from a blocked airway because of being tangled in bedding and blankets, infection, choking, injury or a cardiac or metabolic dysfunction. If you know the cause was suffocation, then it’s classified as SUID. When the death cannot be explained, the baby is said to have died from SIDS.

The #1 Way to Reduce the Risk of SIDS

The #1 way to reduce SIDS is to put babies to sleep on their back, on a firmer baby mattress. The next is to not have pillows, blankets and soft bedding in the crib with them.

These are recommendations to reduce SIDS:

  • Put an infant to sleep on their back on a firm crib surface (this is associated with the lowest risk).
  • Use a firmer crib mattress and avoid soft mattresses. Soft memory foam can sink in and make it difficult to move around, esp. for babies who cannot move their head/necks easily. Also, it’s not breathable.
  • DO NOT let babies sleep on soft mattresses, yes, that includes your memory foam mattress. Even toddlers and older children have suffocated in their parent’s bed.
  • DO NOT decorate your crib with blankets in cribs. That means no crib bumpers, decorative pillows, toys, or anything else. I like to put my babies in a sleep sack or swaddler to keep them warm instead of using a blanket. Or using a breathable blanket. BLANKETS, PILLOWS and BUMPER PADS are the biggest problem.

The advice to keep soft bedding and decorations out of the crib is backed by evidence. In fact, it’s the biggest link to babies and death. “A new study of nearly 5,000 babies who died suddenly between 2011 and 2017 found nearly 70% were sleeping in an unsafe environment per the AAP safe-sleep guidelines, such as sleeping on soft surfaces or with suffocation hazards like blankets, pillows, and crib decorations…”

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Your Sleep Environment is Important

I highly value the health benefits of sleep. That’s why I was drawn to mattresses. I want to do everything I can to make an environment where I can sleep well. One mattress changed my life about 5 years ago and kept me from being woken up most nights, at least once. Before that, my husband moved, I woke up. It was a tidal wave in the bed. After the difference it made in my life, I wanted to learn everything I could about mattresses and sleep. I started sharing it on my blog and later launched this website.

I wish that sleep got easier now that my son is in college. Now we have a little girl (who’s also a good sleeper). But even when she’s gone I think sleep will still be a lifetime work and challenge. Sometimes coming easy. Other times elusive and restless. Just for different reasons.

No Kids in the Bed (No Co Sleeping)

One rule that I followed, for the sake of my marriage and sanity, is no kids sleeping in the bed. No babies in my bed (co-sleeping). I went to their room to rock and check on them in their bed. Sure, during a bad storm or when they’re sick (and older), they snuggled in. I welcome my daughter for snuggle time before school most mornings. But when I put her to bed it’s for the night, most nights.

In college I was a bit of a hippie. Many of my friends were granola moms when they started having babies. I still had a baby wrap to hold my child because it was so much easier and my baby boy liked that. But I never co-slept. Not even one time. Instead I cried my way through crying it out (thankfully it only lasted a day). I did everything to teach him to sleep. Slowly stretching the time asleep from a few hours, to more and more until he slept through the night. Which meant I could too.

My parenting skills are much better when I’ve slept well. Being tired and worn out means I don’t notice as many things. I’m trying to get through the day.

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When I sleep well, even today, my moods more even. I’m happier. Relationships go smoother. My memory is better. I heal faster or get sick less.

CoSleeping is Risky

Why won’t I cosleep? For me it’s too risky. Too many babies die in our country. And it’s not getting better. I’m not saying that a baby mattress, bedding or even anything we can control is the only cause of infant death. But, as a mom, I’d do anything possible to prevent doing anything that could increase risk of suffocation. No baby mattress can say they prevent SIDS.

However, a more breathable baby mattress gives me more peace of mind. As this article states,

“These deaths are still happening — and they happen to well-meaning parents,” said Dr. Rachel Moon, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics task force on SIDS and authored the AAP policy statement on safe infant sleep.

We have remained at the same rate of sleep-related deaths since around 1998…And the rate in the U.S. is much higher than that in most developed — and even some not-so-developed countries.”

The United States is behind other countries on this issue. Our rates are MUCH HIGHER than other countries. WHY? Is it because we don’t follow known guidelines to reduce the risk of SIDS? We need to do better.

Final Tip: Watch out for Fiberglass in your Mattress

One more sleep safety tip: don’t remove the mattress cover. Some mattresses have fiberglass inside that acts as a fire retardant. If you remove the cover on a mattress that has fiberglass, it can be inhaled and spread in your home. It’s like small shards of glass. Cheaper mattresses have been known to have this. DO NOT remove the cover of your mattress.

Instead, get a waterproof mattress protector (I like this brand waterproof crib mattress protector, esp for cribs because it’s more natural). I recommend getting two so when you take one off to wash it, you have another to put on. You can’t believe how many accidents happen when the mattress protector is in the wash! If your kids wet the bed, this is how to clean urine stains and smell from your mattress. It works on pillows too.