Babies continue to die from unsafe sleep practices

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Feb. 18, 2014)  More than 4,000 babies in the United States die each year from sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), which is death that occurs suddenly and unexpectedly in children under age 1. The cause of death is not always immediately clear, but half are attributed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related environment issues, such as suffocation from bed sharing or a baby being placed to sleep on his or her stomach.
In Kentucky in 2012, 45 infant deaths were attributed to SIDS and another 12 to accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the biggest sleep-related risk factors is an adult sharing a bed with an infant, said Erika Janes, R.N., child advocate with the Childrens Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Norton Childrens Hospital and Coordinator of Safe Kids Louisville. In 2012, 19 children died in Jefferson County from an unsafe sleeping environment, which includes bed sharing.

To keep children safe, parents, grandparents and caregivers need to follow the ABCs of sleep: Babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs, in a safe Crib.

Its very tempting to let a crying infant fall asleep in your bed or on your chest on the couch, but it can be deadly, Janes said. If you fall asleep with the child next to you or on you, you could roll over onto your baby or your baby could slide off of your chest and be stuck next to you, causing suffocation. I cannot stress how important it is for babies to sleep alone, on their backs, in a crib.

This does not mean that a baby should never be placed on his or her stomach, said Richard A. Boada, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Childrens Hospital Medical Associates  Jeffersonville. Spending time on the stomach, often called tummy time, helps with shoulder development, so parents should make sure the baby spends time on the stomach  but only while he or she is awake and supervised.

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that babies be placed to sleep on their backs to prevent SIDS, as studies have reinforced the fact that babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to die from SIDS than those who sleep on their stomachs. In 2011, the AAP expanded its recommendations to include a safe environment, adding that babies should sleep on a firm surface by themselves without soft bedding or stuffed animals. The AAP also encourages babies to be breastfed, use a pacifier, receive routine immunizations and be kept away from tobacco smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Other steps for reducing the risk of SIDS:

  • Avoid sharing your bed with an infant. Not only is the mattress surface and bedding hazardous, but infants can be suffocated by a sleeping adult.
  • Avoid smoking during pregnancy and never smoke in the house, car or near a baby or child.
  • Do not place quilts and other fluffy material under or around a sleeping baby. Also, do not let babies sleep on soft surfaces such as sofas and soft mattresses. These items can obstruct breathing.
  • Keep pillows, stuffed animals and other soft materials, including bumper pads, out of the infants crib. These can obstruct the babys breathing.
  • Avoid overheating. Keep the room temperature comfortable to a lightly clothed adult. Do not use a blanket to cover your baby. Instead, use footed pajamas. Also avoid using a hat.

For information on infant sleeping position, talk to your pediatrician. For additional information on safe sleep, visit

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