Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a very real fear for parents. It can affect any family, seemingly without reason or warning.

Experts still don't know all the reasons why SIDS happens. Luckily, there are several actions you can take to reduce your baby's risk.

Here are nine ways to keep your baby safe.

1. Offer your baby a pacifier

Not all babies will take a pacifier. There’s also some debate if pacifiers interfere with breast-feeding or not. But studies have shown that the use of pacifiers in babies decreases the risk of SIDS.

Doctors think that the sucking action on the pacifier helps keep the baby's brain active and prevents that unknown "trigger" that tells the baby to stop breathing.

Note: Never attach the pacifier to your baby using a string or other type of device. You should also never force an infant to take a pacifier if they don’t want it.

2. Don't smoke

If there's one thing you can do to prevent SIDS, it's to stop smoking. Also make sure there’s no one smoking in your home or wherever your child is on a regular basis. Smoking is the number one contributor to SIDS.

If you’re currently pregnant, be sure to seek help to quit. There’s evidence that smoking during pregnancy may change the baby's brain in a way that makes them more susceptible to SIDS later on.

3. Don't use crib bumpers

Crib bumpers should not be placed in your little one’s crib. They are just too risky because of SIDS. Even the newer "breathable" versions haven’t been evaluated enough to say that they’re completely risk-free. Stay safe and avoid crib bumpers.

4. Breast-feed

Breast-feeding has also been associated with the reduction of SIDS. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breast-feeding especially for the first six months of life, which is when the risk of SIDS is higher and also when breast milk can offer important benefits for the baby.

5. Don't share a bed with your baby

Many parents think that co-sleeping is healthier for both parents and the baby. But the link between co-sleeping (bed sharing) and SIDS is undeniable.

The AAP instead recommends room sharing with your baby.

6. Don't abuse drugs

This is sadly one of the biggest factors behind SIDS. If you're abusing recreational or prescription drugs, don't be afraid to seek help for your addiction. It's better to seek help than regret not reaching out later.

7. Run a fan in your baby's room

SIDS has been linked to overheating and poor air circulation in babies. One retrospective study showed that fan use during sleep decreased the risk of SIDS by 72 percent.

Placing a fan in your baby's room is a win-win, because it's white noise that can help lull your baby to sleep and keep them asleep longer, too.

8. Put your baby to sleep on their back

You’ve probably heard that you're supposed to put babies to sleep on their backs. But what about babies who prefer stomach sleeping? This is a tricky one because some babies naturally roll over in their sleep by 4 to 6 months old. So does that mean you need to be constantly vigilant and roll them back over onto their backs? Nope, says the AAP.

If a baby is naturally rolling over onto their stomach from their back, you can let sleeping babies sleep. Just be sure to always:

  • place babies to sleep on their back in their own crib
  • place your baby on a firm mattress
  • place absolutely nothing else in the sleeping area

Next steps

Worries and fears will always be a part of parenting. But you can help reduce your baby's risk of SIDS by practicing safe sleep habits and preventive methods.