changes in babies’ sleep environment contributed to dramatic reductions in the
rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the United States since 1992.
That’s when the American Academy of Pediatrics first recommended against
placing babies to sleep in a chest-down position and efforts to reduce
suffocation hazards such as soft crib bedding got underway. But a new study
the January 2016 issue of Pediatrics (published online Wednesday, Dec.
2) says that while making the sleep environment safer was critical to reducing
the number of SIDS deaths by 38 percent between 1992 and 1996, other factors
were and remain significant. These include a decrease in smoking during
pregnancy, which dropped from 16 percent in 1987 to 10 percent in 2011. The
authors also cite a rising rate of breastfeeding, which has protective effects,
along with increased access to prenatal care and improved steroid medications
for respiratory distress in newborns. The study explores a relative plateau in
SIDS rates during recent years, possibly because more deaths previously
attributed to SIDS are now categorized by forensic investigators as “cause
unknown” or “accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed.” The study authors
said it speaks to an inherent vulnerability of infants dying from SIDS and the
importance of research to understand and address underlying causes. At the same
time, they said, efforts must continue to assure a safe sleep environment and
minimize sleep practices that can put a vulnerable infant at higher risk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 64,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org or follow us at @AmerAcadPeds.