Why are more babies suffocating to death?

Why are more babies suffocating to death?

The number of babies dying of suffocation before their first birthday in the U.S. is on the rise.

According to a recent study in JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) Pediatrics, in 2015 alone, over 1,000 babies’ deaths were preventable. Of all unintentional injuries to babies age one or younger, 87 percent were unintentional suffocations.

So why are more babies suffocating?

Some experts believe more parents are sharing their beds with infants. These same experts stress the importance of safe sleep recommendations outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
  • Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
  • Share a bedroom with baby, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until he or she turns 1, but at least for the first six months. Room sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
  • Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

“Parents should take safe sleep guidelines seriously,”  says Dr. Shrinal Vyas, a pediatrician at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “While it is tempting to have your baby sleep in your own bed, especially for the convenience of feeding, it is very dangerous. You could fall asleep and accidentally harm your baby. We know babies are safest when sleeping in their own space, and we can prevent so many unnecessary deaths if families follow these safety measures.”

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  1. “Some experts believe more parents are sharing their beds with infants.”

    Yes, and I believe unicorns exist. But I admit I don’t have any proof of my belief. Do these experts have any proof of their belief? And, more to the point, do they have any proof that this allege increased bed sharing is in any way connected to the increase in infant suffocation?

    Humans have (generally unavoidably) been sharing beds (or floors or straw mats or the cold hard ground as the case may be) with infants since the dawn of time. Amazing that we’ve continued to exist as a species.

    • Your point perfectly describes the risk of modern day bed-sharing! It has been done for centuries… but never with a pillow-top mattress, down comforter, and/or pillows (all of which are suffocation risks for young infants because of their lack of neck strength and ability to lift their head). Co-sleeping on a thin mat on a hard floor without blankets or pillows is safer for the infant but probably less realistic for today’s parent.

  2. Humankind have always slept with their infants. It is unsafe cosleeping that is a problem. Having multiple pillows in the bed, large blankets, soft mattresses are unsafe. Another unsafe cosleeping practice is placing the infant between the parents. We know people cosleep so teaching the general safety guidelines for it is important.

  3. Why risk your child’s life by co-sleeping? Cuddle and hold them while they sleep and you are sitting in a chair. You can have them next to your bed at night – I don’t understand the need to have them in YOUR bed.

About the Author

Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!