BATON ROUGE - As part of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month, the Louisiana Department of Health reminds parents to take a few simple steps to reduce their baby's risk of dying from SIDS.

SIDS is the third leading cause of infant mortality in the United States and in Louisiana. Louisiana has one of the highest rates of SIDS deaths in the country. In 2007, 84 infants died in Louisiana as a result of SIDS. This amounts to 1.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is more than twice the national average of 0.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. SIDS occurs when a baby dies for no apparent reason while they are sleeping. SIDS affects babies from all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.

"SIDS is the tragic death of an infant with no known cause," says Dr. Gina Lagarde, LDH's Child Health Medical Director, "Our goal is to educate parents, grandparents, and anyone who may have day-to-day contact with infants on ways to reduce the risk of SIDS."

While there is no way to prevent SIDS, the best practice is to ensure all babies have a safe sleep environment. Other tips for SIDS prevention include:

  • THIS SIDE UP - Always place infants to sleep on their backs, even though they may sleep more soundly on their stomachs. Infants who sleep on their stomachs and sides have a much higher rate of SIDS than infants who sleep on their backs.
  • PROPER SLEEPING ENVIRONMENT - Place infants to sleep in a baby bed with a firm mattress. There should be nothing in the bed but the baby - no covers, no pillows, no bumper pads, no positioning devices and no toys. Soft mattresses and heavy covering are associated with the risk for SIDS. Keep your baby's crib in the parents' room. Studies clearly show that infants are safest when their beds are close to their mothers. Do not place your baby to sleep in an adult bed. Do not fall asleep with your baby on a couch or in a chair.
  • NOT TOO HOT - Do not over-clothe the infant for sleep. Just use enough clothes to keep the baby warm without having to use cover. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you. Overheating an infant may increase the risk for SIDS.
  • NO SMOKING - Avoid exposing the infant to tobacco smoke. Don't have your infant in the same house or car with someone who is smoking. Do not smoke during pregnancy: Maternal smoking during pregnancy has emerged as a major risk factor in almost every epidemiologic study of SIDS.
  • BREASTFEEDING - Breast-feed babies whenever possible. Breast milk decreases the occurrence of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Studies show that breast-fed babies have a lower SIDS rate than formula-fed babies do.
  • PACIFIER AT NAPTIME AND BEDTIME - Offer your baby a pacifier. Some studies have shown a lower rate of SIDS among babies who use pacifiers.
  • HEED WARNING SIGNS - If your baby has periods of not breathing, going limp or turning blue, tell your pediatrician at once

For more information about SIDS Risk Reduction and Safe Sleep, please contact Kristie Bardell, program coordinator, at (504) 568-3534 or call the national SIDS hotline at 1-800-221-SIDS (7437).

The Maternal Child Health Program (MCH) within the Louisiana Department of Health works to assure that pregnant women, women of childbearing age, infants, children, and youth in Louisiana have access to high quality primary and preventive health care services.  MCH supports, the Louisiana SIDS Risk Reduction and Safe Sleep Program and Partners for Healthy Babies.  For more information, please visit the website:

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog at, Twitter at and search for the Louisiana Department of Health on Facebook.