Each year about 3,500 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly in the U.S.
These deaths are called sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) and as part of SIDS Awareness Month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is promoting ways parents and caregivers can reduce the risk.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death for infants aged one to 12 months and about half of unexplained infant deaths are attributed to SIDS. SIDS is the sudden death of an infant that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation that includes a completed autopsy, examination of the child's environment, and a review of the child's medical history.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) n 1992 began recommending that babies sleep on their backs, and the rate of SIDS has since dropped 50 percent.
While it is sometimes lumped together with SIDS, Accidental Suffocation and Strangulation in Bed (ASSB) is the leading cause of death due to injury. While the rate of SIDS has decreased, a study found that the rate of accidental suffocation deaths have increased 7 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to about 16 in 2010.
The 2014 study by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that 55 percent of babies sleep with unsafe bedding that can lead to ASSB. This is despite decades-old recommendations that babies should sleep on a bare mattress without thick blankets, quilts and pillows. Soft bedding may look and feel cozy, but it can easily cover an infant's nose or mouth. The AAP updated its sleep guidelines to recommend that babies sleep on a firm mattress with no bedding.
Babies who sleep with another person also risk being suffocated when that person rolls on top of or against the child. A 2014 AAP study found that nearly 70 percent of more than 8,000 sleep-related deaths occurred when the baby was sharing a bed. The AAP does not recommend bed-sharing.
Babies can also be suffocated or strangled by becoming caught in or between furniture. This year IKEA recalled hundreds of thousands of crib mattresses after babies had become entrapped between the mattress and the bedrails. In this instance, the children did not suffer any injuries.
Reducing the Risk
Doctors and researchers don't know the exact cause of SIDS, but there are ways that parents and caregivers can reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths.
The CDC has the following recommendations:
- Always place babies on their backs to sleep for every sleep.
- Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet.
- Have the baby share your room, not your bed. Your baby should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair alone, with you, or with anyone else.
- Keep soft objects such as pillows and loose bedding out of your baby's sleep area. For extra warmth, use a sleep sack.
- Don't smoke during pregnancy or around the baby because these are important risk factors for SIDS. The risk of SIDS is even stronger when a baby shares a bed with a smoker. To reduce risk, do not smoke during pregnancy, and do not smoke or allow smoking around your baby.
More information about safe infant sleeping can be found on the Safe to Sleep website.