Every year in the United States, more than 2,300 otherwise healthy babies die suddenly and unexpectedly from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Although the number of SIDS deaths in the US has fallen by over 50 percent since 1983, SIDS continues to be the leading cause of death for babies one month to one year of age. You probably already know that stuffed toys, pillows, blankets and crib bumpers should be kept away from your sleeping baby and that you should put him to sleep on his back, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, overheating is also a SIDS risk factor. And now that temperatures are dropping and the heavier clothing and blankets are coming out, it’s an important risk factor remember. Read on to find out why overheating is a problem, and to learn what you can do to lower your baby’s risk.

The Issue With Overheating

Your motherly instinct may make you want to turn up the heat and bundle up your baby in heavy clothes, heavy blankets, and multiple layers of clothing now that it’s colder outside. However, the American SIDS Institute warns that going overboard can increase the risk of SIDS because your baby may overheat. While adults are able to regulate their own body temperatures, infants aren’t yet able to do so and they’re more sensitive to extreme temperatures.

In addition, a recent international study published in the medical journal Pediatrics concluded that 25 percent of SIDS babies were found with their head covered, which makes it even more important to be careful about the bedding in your child’s crib.

What You Can Do

Since your baby can’t regulate her own body temperature yet, you need to do it for her. Dress your baby in light clothing, tuck a light blanket into the mattress making sure it only goes up to the baby’s chest level, and keep the nursery at a temperature you find comfortable. If your baby feels hot to the touch, she may be at risk for overheating according to the National Institute of Child Health and Development.

Beyond choosing light weight clothing for your baby to sleep in, you might want to opt for a light weight sleep sack so you can skip potentially dangerous top sheets, blankets and comforters, eliminating the risk of your baby pulling the blanket over her head.

You should also consider what fabric your baby is wearing to bed. Synthetic fabrics are not only bad for the environment, but also they aren’t breathable and can make babies hot, sweaty and clammy. These conditions don’t sound comfortable for your little one and can be indicators that your baby is at risk for overheating.

A research study conducted by AgResearch in New Zealand, compared the performance of a merino wool baby sleep sack with a polyester micro-fleece sleep sack and found that the natural wool fabric was better for maintaining a baby’s thermophysiological comfort and well-being, in part because it will absorb and release moisture, helping to reduce the risk of overheating.

+ American SIDS Institute’s Tips for Reducing the Risk of SIDS