House Calls Previously Asked Questions

Marion Katz, CPNP


Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Graybill Medical Group


Understanding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

I've been told to put my newborn "back to sleep." Why?

Putting your infant to sleep on his back significantly reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the unexpected death of an infant in which there is no determined medical cause. This is a devastating occurrence for the family because it happens without warning.

For reasons still unknown, SIDS is more common in male infants, as well as infants who are premature or born to young moms. Infants who were exposed to smoking while in the womb are at a higher risk. SIDS occurs more often in winter, perhaps because of more viruses being present or because infants may be sleeping with heavy clothing or blankets.

Reducing the risk of SIDS starts during pregnancy with regular prenatal check  ups and not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight. After your baby's birth, breastfeeding, regular check ups, appropriate immunizations and avoidance of second-hand smoke are strongly recommended.

Safe sleep practice starts with always putting your infant to sleep on his back and keeping the room at a comfortable temperature. Teach everyone who cares for your baby- from day-care providers to grandparents- that your infant should only be put "back to sleep." In addition, make sure the crib is firm and clear of soft pillows, stuffed animals and heavy blankets.

When your baby is awake, include plenty of supervised tummy time to help build strong neck and shoulder muscles. This also helps avoid flat spots that can occur from either back sleeping or prolonged reclining in a baby carrier.

If you are the parent of a child who died from SIDS, please know that you are not alone and that you did nothing wrong. There are support groups in San Diego county that can help. For more information, contact the San Diego Health Department at 760.740.4000 or visit