Lindsay Paulsen will never forget the day her life changed in an unimaginable way. On March 19, 2018, her 11-month-old son Declan died after being put down for a nap at day care.

“Declan was the happiest baby in the whole world,” Lindsay says. “I still have a hard time understanding how this person that I created and loved and that was so wonderful is gone. It can happen so fast.”

Declan’s death was ruled as a case of Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID), a term used to describe the death of a baby less than 1 year old with no obvious cause. These deaths often happen during sleep or in the baby’s sleeping area.

“We had just got Declan’s birthday supplies and we were going to have a party, and I wasn’t thinking about this happening at his age,” Lindsay says.

It’s estimated that roughly 3,600 baby deaths each year can’t be explained. However, there are things parents and caregivers can do to reduce the risk.

  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep.
  • Never dress your baby too warmly for sleep; keep room temperature comfortable for an adult.
  • Dress your baby in a wearable blanket instead of loose blankets.
  • Do not bed share. Place your baby’s crib or bassinet near your bed.
  • Remove all soft bedding, bumpers and toys from your baby’s sleep area to prevent the risk of suffocation or strangulation. Use only a tight-fitted sheet.
  • Never place a baby on a sofa, couch or cushioned chair. Not even if you are holding them and there’s a chance you might fall asleep.
  • Offer a pacifier when putting baby to sleep. If breastfeeding, offer a pacifier after baby is one month old.
  • Visit your baby’s pediatrician regularly and stay up to date on your baby’s immunizations.
  • Never smoke around your baby.

Parents and caregivers may hesitate to wake a baby who’s fallen asleep in their car seat or swing, but allowing your baby to sleep in an inclined position for an extended period of time is unsafe.

“Because any position other than flat will flex their neck forward and that kinks off their airway so they cannot breathe well,” says pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “It is possible for your baby to have a dangerous drop in oxygen levels in a matter of minutes when they are bunched up or not flat.”

Lindsay and her family will never understand why their sweet baby boy died, but she hopes that Declan’s story can bring awareness and help other families.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that grief is just love with nowhere to go, so as long as I love him, I’m going to miss him and I’m going to grieve him. But I also want to do what I can to honor him and help someone else not have to be in my shoes.”