Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 1,545 infants died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in 2014 (the most recent year for which data are available).1
SIDS was the leading cause of death in children between 1 month and 1 year of age in 2013.2
The majority (90%) of SIDS deaths occur before a child is 6 months old, with most happening between 1 month and 4 months of age.3
What factors increase the risk of SIDS?
Currently, there is no known way to prevent SIDS, but there are ways to reduce the risk. Several factors present during pregnancy, at birth, and throughout the first year after birth can impact SIDS risk. Many of these factors can be controlled or changed to reduce the risk, but some cannot be controlled or changed.
One of the most effective actions that parents and caregivers can take to lower SIDS risk is to place their baby to sleep on his or her back for all sleep times.
Research shows that:4
- Back sleeping carries the lowest risk for SIDS and is recommended.
- Stomach sleeping carries the highest risk for SIDS—between 1.7 and 12.9 times the risk of back sleeping. It is not recommended.
- The side-lying position also increases the risk. It is unstable and babies can easily roll to their stomach. It is not recommended.
To learn more about ways to reduce the risk for SIDS, visit the How can I reduce the risk of SIDS? section of this topic.
Other known risk factors for SIDS include the following:
- Preterm birth. Infants born before 37 weeks in the womb are at higher risk for SIDS than are infants born at full term.3
- Smoking. Maternal smoking during pregnancy and smoke in the infant's environment increase the risk of SIDS.3
- Race/ethnic origin. African American and American Indian/Alaska Native infants are at higher risk for SIDS than are white, Hispanic American, or Asian/Pacific Islander American infants.1
- Mathews, T. J., MacDorman, M. F., & Thoma, M. E. (2015). Infant mortality statistics from the 2013 period linked birth/infant death data set. National Vital Statistics Reports, 64(9). Retrieved June 7, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_09.pdf (PDF 1 MB)
- Heron, M. (2016). Deaths: Leading causes for 2013. National Vital Statistics Reports, 65(2). Retrieved June 7, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr65/nvsr65_02.pdf (PDF 4.8 MB)
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011; reaffirmed 2014, October). SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Expansion of recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics, 128, 1030–1039. Retrieved June 7, 2016, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/5/e1341.full
- American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. (2005; reaffirmed 2008, May). The changing concept of sudden infant death syndrome: Diagnostic coding shifts, controversies regarding the sleeping environment, and new variables to consider in reducing risk. Pediatrics, 116, 1245–1255. Retrieved June 7, 2016, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/5/1245