Whether you’re an expectant or experienced parent, grandparent, or caregiver, you’ve probably heard of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome… and it’s scary. Although the exact cause is unknown, every person in an infant’s life can take action to help keep them safe.

Precaution begins even before birth, as studies show that a mother’s health can have an impact on protecting their baby against SIDS. Regular prenatal visits, stopping smoking, and abstaining from drugs and alcohol are three critical steps pregnant women can take to reduce risk. Mothers-to-be and their families can rely on the county-by-county Bootheel Community Resource Guide to connect with the services and professionals who can help.

In the Bootheel, unsafe sleep habits contribute to as many as 75% of infant deaths. That’s why every infant’s home should have a safe sleep environment. Families and caregivers can play an active, positive role in an infant’s first year when they establish and commit to the following ABC’S of safe sleep – Alone, on their Backs, in a Crib – to reduce SIDS risk:

  • Alone: Always put your baby to sleep by themselves in a crib or other safe sleep environment. Babies who share a bed are at significantly higher risk of sleep-related death than those who don’t.
  • On their Back: Babies who sleep on their backs are at a significantly lower risk of SIDS and sleep-related injuries. Until their first birthdays and for all sleep times – including naps and at night – make sure to place your baby on their back.
  • Crib or other safe sleep surface: A firm mattress and tightly-fitted sheets are all that should be in an infant’s sleep environment. Blankets, crib bumpers, pillows, and stuffed toys are all suffocation hazards.

While physicians and scientists continue their vital work to unlock SIDS’s mystery, the action steps presented here work to decrease the risk for your baby. During October, SIDS Awareness Month, everyone can begin a conversation about what infants need – and don’t need – to have a strong start in life.