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Unsafe sleep environments are much more dangerous for babies with respiratory symptoms

There has been a sharp increase in sleep-related infant deaths this winter. Our hearts are broken for these families and we want to prevent these tragedies from happening again.

We know from the data that having respiratory symptoms increases the risks for sleep-related deaths because these babies are already having difficultly breathing, may be feeling sluggish, and may have a fever. This is why it is especially important for families to practice safe sleep with babies experiencing respiratory symptoms.

What We Know

Respiratory Symptoms

If your baby was diagnosed with a respiratory infection, such as RSV, or has any of the following symptoms, safe sleep is even more important for them:

  • Sneezing

  • Fever

  • Wheezing

  • Runny nose

  • Decrease in appetite

  • Coughing

If you are worried about your baby's symptoms, call your baby's doctor right away.

Babies sleep safest when they are alone, on their back in a crib, and in a smoke-free home. It is also important to make sure that your baby does not overheat. 

Safe Sleep


Most sleep-related deaths occur when babies sleep with an adult or another child, or in an adult bed or on a sofa. You can keep your baby close to you by sharing your room with your baby, but not your bed.


The safest position for a baby to sleep is on their back. Even when your baby is congested or coughing, babies are less likely to choke while sleeping on their backs.


When babies are sick, they may be more sluggish and have a harder time adjusting their position to breathe better if their face gets covered. Your baby’s sleeping place should be clean and clear. No blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, Boppy, or crib bumpers. Just a tight-fitting sheet on a firm mattress.

Don't Smoke.

Not only does smoke exposure increase the risk for respiratory infection for babies, but it can also make symptoms worse. Keep smoke away from your baby–no cigarettes, marijuana, or vaping in your home. Smoke of any kind increases a baby's risk of dying while sleeping, especially babies who are sick.

Stay Cool.

Babies with fever may overheat more easily because their body temperature may already be higher than normal. Sleeping on their back and uncovered, without blankets, can help prevent overheating.


To  learn more, visit the safe sleep section of our website

Safe Sleep Support

We understand that safe sleep is not always easy. Remember that you are not alone--we are here to help make it easier. 

In addition to the resources below, if you need help in the middle of the night, you can call the 24-hour Nurseline with your Managed Care Organization. 

Get a Free Crib and Connect to a Safe Sleep Coordinator
Maryland Smoking Quitline
24 Hour Parent Helpline
Clinical Guidance on RSV Vaccines
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