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.

  4. It is funny how I recently read an article on how human beings will ignore facts and true statistics just do they can feel that their beliefs are the right ones. This article is pointing out how unsafe it is to allow the baby to sleep in your bed, and why. The pillows, the soft mattresses with pillow tops, loose blankets and sheets all over and on top of that… people, who are now larger than ever, but even small ones can roll over on the infant or create a barrier in which the infant can roll into and suffocate itself. Hell, a mother can suffocate her baby by supply pushing her breast up against its mouth and nose if she falls asleep while feeding! Babies and toddlers do not have the core strength to pull themselves up or roll away when they are in certain positions. People like to have the baby in the bed for the same selfish reasons as usual….I want the baby closer to me, I want to sleep with MY child, it’s easier for ME to just pop out and feed right there. I, I, I, me, me, me. It’s, about the child, not you. When a child suffocates and dies, they know. It is reported and data is taken down. It will be asked how the child died and the patent will say???….,” I had him or her in the tub and turned for a moment (another struggle on babies drowning) or I had him or her in the bed with me sleeping or napping or cuddling”… whatever. The doctors, proper authorities, and medical examiner can all gather the rest after studying the child and putting 2 and 2 together. Doesn’t take a genius. You want to sleep with your child, put the crib near your bed. Cuddle with the baby during the day on the floor for a few minutes where it is a hundred times less likely to happen. Just because it is something you believe people have been doing since the dawn of time, doesn’t mean people have been and it doesn’t mean it’s right. How would you know anyways? You question the integrity of the facts of this article, yet you somehow know, what all the peels of the world have been doing since the dawn of time?

  5. Another way that babies suffocate before they are able to control their head movements is by being allowed to sleep in their car seats. Their heads dangle down and effectively cut off the air supply. Many parents allow them to sleep there because if they move them, the babies may wake up. Better to wake them up, than to take a chance.

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!