ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It's time to put an age-old debate to bed. What's the safest and best way for a baby to sleep? We looked at the data, consulted the experts, and got the answers.

Being a parent can be overwhelming, constantly being told what to do, what not to do, try this, not that. It's information overload and can be hard to separate fact from well-meaning fiction.

There is one theory doctors and medical examiners want to set the record straight on because it could be the difference between life and death: the safest way for you to put your baby to sleep every single time.

To verify the safest way to put your baby to sleep, 10News used three sources: Dr. Rachel Dawkins, a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, Bill Pellan with the Pinellas County Medical Examiner's Office, and data from medical examiners across Tampa Bay and the state of Florida.

Dr. Dawkins said pediatricians have been in agreement for nearly three decades about the safest way for a baby to sleep.

"To have your child alone in their crib, on their back, no pillows or blankets, no bumper pads. That's the safest," Dr. Dawkins said.

For perspective, we looked at county medical examiner records for the number of sleep-related infant deaths in 2017.

Hillsborough: 18

Pinellas: 10

Pasco: 2

Polk: 9

Hardee: 1

Highlands: 4

Manatee: 2

Sarasota: 4

Most of these deaths were caused by co-sleeping, as in sharing the same sleeping surface with an adult such as sharing a bed, falling asleep on a couch or in a recliner with the baby.

"I don't think the number of infant deaths has gone down, but the number of deaths classified as SIDS perhaps has gone down," explained Pellan.

For years, SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has been recorded as the cause of death in sleeping babies. However, many medical examiners have stopped using the term. Pellan hasn't classified SIDS as a cause of death in 18 years.

READ MORE: Study: Conflicting information about SIDS can prove lethal

According to a statewide report in 2016, there were 176 sleep-related infant deaths in Florida. Of those, 103 were caused by accidental suffocation. Of the 103, 61 were a result of co-sleeping. Only four deaths were classified as SIDS.

"SIDS for years has maybe been overused by medical examiners and coroners because it was accepted by the community, and it's blameless; but we can reduce the risk of SIDS if you put your baby to sleep on their back and alone in a crib," Pellan said.


Putting your baby to sleep on their back is the safest, and sleeping with your baby results in one of the most common sleep-related infant deaths.


More information about a safe sleeping environment can be found on the Florida Health website.