NIH News Advisory
National Institute on Child Health
and Human Development

Tuesday, September 16, 1997

Robin Peth-Pierce
(301) 496-5133

New Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Fact Sheet,
AAP Statement on Bed Sharing Now Available

A new fact sheet describing the risk factors for SIDS is now available from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). SIDS, sometimes known as crib death, is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant under one year of age that strikes nearly 4,000 babies in the United States every year.

While the causes of SIDS are still unclear and it is currently impossible to predict which infants might fall victim, research shows that the simple strategy of placing babies on their backs to sleep can help to reduce the risk of SIDS.

The "Back to Sleep" public-private health education campaign, led by the NICHD, has successfully reached parents of new babies about the importance of back sleeping. Prior to the 1992 recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to place babies on their backs and the initiation of the "Back to Sleep" campaign in 1994, nearly 70% of babies were sleeping on their stomachs. Today, only about 25% of babies are stomach sleeping.

Recently, there has been interest in the concept that bed sharing between a mother and baby could reduce the risk of SIDS. Studies had shown that bed sharing altered and synchronized their sleep patterns, leading to speculation that this practice could possibly reduce the risk. While bed sharing may have certain benefits, such as encouraging breast feeding, the AAP's Task Force on Infant Positioning and SIDS reported in the August issue of Pediatrics that no scientific studies to date demonstrate that bed sharing reduces the risk of SIDS.

The new SIDS fact sheet contains other tips for reducing the risk of SIDS, including placing the baby to sleep on a firm mattress and removing fluffy pillows or stuffed animals from the crib. Evidence from various research studies suggests that soft bedding may cause infants in the prone position (stomach sleeping) to rebreathe exhaled air and suffocate.

The fact sheet is available on the "Back to Sleep" homepage at or by calling 301-496-5133. Other "Back to Sleep" publications and materials, including a brochure for parents (available in both English and Spanish), a brochure for health-care professionals, "Back to Sleep" reminder crib stickers, take-home cards to distribute in hospitals and maternity clinics, posters, and a parent training videotape (available in both English and Spanish) can be obtained by calling toll-free, 1-800-505-CRIB, or writing to: NICHD/Back to Sleep, 31 Center Drive, Room 2A32, Bethesda, MD 20892-2425.

The NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health, the biomedical research arm of the Federal government. Since its inception in 1962, the Institute has become a world leader in promoting research on reproductive biology, including fertility regulation, and population issues; development before and after birth; maternal, child and family health; and medical rehabilitation.