SIDS and Safe Sleep

Pediatric Care

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death among infants one month to one year of age, taking the lives of about 2,500 children each year in the United States. An additional 3,500 infants die each year from other causes of sudden and unexpected infant death (SUID), such as suffocation.

Although the rate of SIDS has decreased by more than 50 percent in the United States since the introduction of the Back to Sleep campaign, racial and economic disparities remain. African-Americans at all socioeconomic levels experience SIDS and SUID at two to three times the rate of the general population.

In Washington, DC, the infant mortality rate is 13.6 per 1,000 live births, one of the worst in the nation, and almost double the national rate of 6.9 per 1,000 live births. In the past several years, more than 50 percent of sudden unexpected infant deaths in the city have occurred while infants were sleeping with others on the same sleep surface, and more than 80 percent occurred while infants were sleeping on adult beds or sofas.

Education is provided in small group sessions to low-income families, adolescent parents, and child care providers in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. The project works collaboratively with governmental and non-governmental agencies, including the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, the Early Care and Education Administration, Department of Human Services, Washington, DC, (the licensing agency for child care providers), and the District of Columbia Public Schools and Public Charter Schools. The project’s educational interventions have been evaluated and found to be effective in improving knowledge and changing behavior with regard to SIDS and SUID risks.

The project also actively conducts clinical research pertaining to SIDS and SIDS risk factors in high-risk populations. The team has performed studies on:

  • sleep position and motor development
  • determinants of sleep position in urban populations
  • physician beliefs and practices
  • SIDS and SIDS risk factors in infants attending child care
  • SIDS-relevant regulations in child care
  • the effectiveness of educational interventions among low-income families and child care providers

Our current research projects include a mixed-model study (using quantitative and qualitative techniques) investigating influences that affect parental decisions about their infant's sleep, an evaluation of the impact of a national crib distribution program on infant mortality, and a secondary data analysis investigating the interplay between bedsharing and other risk factors for SIDS in African-American infants.

Facts About SIDS

Facts About SIDS

Researchers at Children's National investigate SIDS risk factors among child-care providers and develops ways to better educate child-care providers and minority populations about the dangers of SIDS.

Although the number of deaths from SIDS has decreased in recent years, about 2,500 babies die from SIDS each year. Children’s National has a team of researchers, doctors, and staff committed to learning more about SIDS and educating parents about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Facts about SIDS

  • More boy babies die from SIDS than girls.
  • African American babies have a 2-3 times greater risk of dying from SIDS as Caucasian babies.
  • Back sleeping is the safest sleep position for infants under 1 year of age.
  • About 75 percent of babies who die suddenly and unexpectedly die while they are sleeping in the same place (couch, armchair, bed) as another person.
  • SIDS is not the same as suffocation, but both can happen when the baby is asleep.
  • In the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, infant mortality rate is 15 deaths per 1,000 live births (twice the national rate of 7.1)
  • In the region, SIDS rate is also double the national rate (approximately 120 per 100,000 live births each year)

Reducing the Risk

Follow these tips to create a safe sleep environment and help reduce the risk of SIDS for infants.


  • Babies should always sleep on their backs.
  • Place baby on his/her back to sleep at night time and naptime.
  • Babies shouldn’t sleep on their side. They may roll to face down position.


  • Every baby should sleep in his/her own crib.
  • Place baby on a firm mattress in a safety-approved crib.
  • Remove all fluffy and loose bedding from the sleep area. The only thing that should be in the crib is the baby.
  • Make sure baby’s head and face stay uncovered during sleep.
  • Use blanket sleepers instead of blankets during colder months.

Room sharing

  • Babies from birth to age 6 months should sleep in the same room with their parents.
  • Babies should not sleep on the same sleep surface with their parents.
  • Bring the baby into your bed for cuddling and feeding, but return the baby to his/her crib when you are ready to go back to sleep.

Other tips

  • Don’t let baby get too warm during sleep. A general rule is that babies need one more layer than you do.
  • Use pacifiers at naptime and bedtime during the first year, but not during the first month for breast-fed babies.
  • Breastfeeding is best!
  • Make sure your baby gets all the recommended vaccinations.
Related Links

Related Links

SIDS fact sheet

Resources for Families

Related Videos

Related Videos

Video resources:

SIDS Fact Sheet

Sids Poster

Download these prevention tips to help create a safe sleeping environment for your baby.


Reducing Your Baby's Risk

Hear some tips for how to help reduce your baby's risk of SIDS.


What Should You Know?

Watch this video to learn what you should know about SIDS and your baby.