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Preventing Suffocation

Newborns and infants can't lift their heads well. So they can get stuck in a position that blocks their breathing, called smothering or suffocation. Young children have better head control, but still have a small risk of smothering too.

What Can Help Protect Kids From Suffocation?

Safe sleep:

  • Infants should always be placed on their back on a firm mattress for sleep.
  • Never place an infant on soft surfaces such as comforter, fluffy rug, or soft mattress.
  • Don't put an infant to sleep on an adult bed, couch, or other soft surface.
  • Infants should not share a bed with other children or adults. Bed-sharing can cause a baby to be smothered.
  • Never put an infant down on a mattress covered with plastic.
  • Keep blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, or plush toys out of the crib.
  • Don’t use crib bumpers.
  • Make sure your baby's crib mattress is the right size and fits snugly in the crib. This keeps a baby from getting caught between the mattress and the crib sides.
  • Make sure your baby's crib sheet fits snugly on the mattress to keep it from coming off and getting wrapped around your baby's head. You also can buy crib sheet holders to keep sheets in place.

Household safety:

  • Tie several knots in plastic shopping bags and dry-cleaning bags before throwing them out or recycling.
  • Keep all plastic bags, including garbage bags and sandwich-style plastic bags, out of the reach of young kids.
  • Keep balloons, including deflated balloons, out of reach. Quickly clean up and safely throw away pieces of broken balloons.

What Else Should I Know?

If you're expecting a baby or already have a child, it's a good idea to:

Even with these precautions in place, kids still can get hurt and accidents do happen. But being prepared will help you to act quickly and confidently if an emergency happens.

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date Reviewed: Jul 1, 2023

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