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The leading cause of death in otherwise healthy babies more than a month old is SIDS , or sudden infant death syndrome. It occurs in about 50 of every 100,000 births in the U.S. SIDS  applies to any infant whose death is sudden and unexplained.

Usually, the infant is found dead after having been put to sleep, and a subsequent autopsy finds absolutely nothing wrong with the baby. For parents, it is the most horrific of experiences.

No one knows what causes SIDS , but there are several risk factors asociated with it. Babies who are born prematurely are at increased risk for SIDS ; so are those who are exposed to tobacco smoke. Laying an infant to sleep on his or her stomach also increases the risk, as does excess bedding, a soft sleep surface or the presence of stuffed animals.

There is no surefire way to prevent SIDS , but in light of these known risks, parents can take precautions to reduce its likelihood. Here are seven quick tips for avoiding SIDS .

Don't smoke in the house

Don't  sleep with your baby in your bed. More and more evidence suggests that parents, especially overweight ones, may inadvertently smother their babies when they're sleeping with their child.

Do  choose a crib with a firm surface

Do  keep blankets and stuffed animals to a minimum. Infants have little control over their heads and may smother themselves in their bedding.

Do  place baby on his or her back to sleep, never on the stomach.

Do  breastfeed if you can. One recent study showed that breastfed infants are five times less likely to have SIDS as forumula fed infants.

Do  use a pacifier. A recent study has noted that the use of pacifiers is associated with a 90 percent decrease in the risk of SIDS.

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