NIH Alerts Caregivers to Increased Risk of SIDS in Cold Weather

Institute Also Stresses Importance of Placing Infants on Back to Sleep

November 08, 2010 04:15 pm News Staff

With winter approaching, the NIH is alerting parents and caregivers that babies are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, during the winter months.

[Sleeping Baby - SIDS - Alert]

Parents often place extra blankets or clothes on infants during cold weather. However, infants are sensitive to extremes in temperature and cannot regulate their body temperatures well. In fact, studies have shown that multiple layers, heavy clothing, heavy blankets and warm room temperatures increase the risk for SIDS, the NIH said.

Alan Guttmacher, M.D., director of the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, or NICHD, said in a Nov. 2 news release( that parents and caregivers should dress infants in light clothing for sleep and keep rooms at a temperature comfortable for adults.

SIDS is the third-leading cause of infant death in the United States. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 2,300 children died of SIDS in 2006.

The NIH said that unless there is a medical reason not to, infants should be placed on their backs to sleep. This simple step is the No. 1 way to reduce the risk of SIDS.

An NICHD study( released last year identified three principal factors that prevented parents and caregivers from placing infants on their backs to sleep: lack of a physician's recommendation, fear that the infant might choke and concerns about the infant's comfort.

The NIH also offered the following recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS:

  • Place infants on a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved crib mattress covered with a fitted sheet. Never place an infant to sleep on a pillow, quilt or other soft surface. Information about crib safety( is available from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Keep soft objects, toys and loose bedding out of an infant's sleep area. Don't use pillows, blankets or pillow-like bumpers in your baby's sleep area, and keep all items away from the infant's face.
  • If a blanket must be used, the infant should be placed with his or her feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck the ends of the blanket under the crib mattress and cover the baby no higher than chest level. Keep the blanket away from the infant's face, and use only light sleep clothing.
  • Do not allow smoking around an infant.
  • Use a clean, dry pacifier when placing an infant down to sleep, but don't force the baby to take it. For breastfeeding infants, wait until the child is 1 month old, or is accustomed to breastfeeding, before using a pacifier.