Recent Infant Deaths Had Preventable Risk Factors

Recent Infant Deaths Had Preventable Risk Factors

Sep 08, 2009

Second-hand smoke and/or Co-sleeping present in most cases


Two preventable risk factors were present in the majority of cases in which infants died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Co-sleeping, where an infant sleeps with one or more parents in their bed was present in more than half of the 13 SIDS deaths among Spokane County infants in the past 18 months. And, second-hand smoke was also documented in 3 out of 4 SIDS deaths this year. 

"Every SIDS death is such a tragedy," said Dr. Joel McCullough, Health Officer for the Spokane Regional Health District. "We can reduce the risk of SIDS with a few simple tips that all parents and caregivers should follow."

Secondhand smoke and co-sleeping are two of the most common, preventable risk factors for SIDS deaths. Parents should not allow smoking anywhere near an infant, and parents should not sleep with their baby, and should instead nurse or comfort the baby, and then return the baby to his or her crib.

SIDS increases in the cold winter months, therefore parents need to pay special attention to how they cover their infants when they put them to sleep. Parents often place extra blankets or clothes on infants, hoping to provide them with more warmth. In fact, the extra material may actually increase infants' risk for SIDS. Setting the thermostat up too high is also a risk factor for SIDS.

There are a number of ways to reduce the risk of SIDS. Unless there's a medical reason not to, infants should be placed on their backs to sleep, on a firm mattress with no blankets or fluffy bedding under or over them. If a blanket is used, it should be placed no higher than the baby's chest and be tucked in under the crib mattress. The baby's crib and sleep area should be free of pillows and stuffed toys, and the temperature should be kept at a level that feels comfortable for an adult.

SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between 1 month and 1 year of age and claims the lives of approximately 2,500 infants each year. Each year in Spokane between about five and ten infants die from SIDS. SIDS is the sudden unexplained death of an infant in the first year of life. Most SIDS deaths happen when babies are between two and four months of age. The causes of SIDS are still unclear, but it is possible to reduce factors that increase SIDS risk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently issued updated recommendations for reducing the risk of SIDS:

  • Do not sleep in bed with an infant, put the baby in a nearby crib or bassinet.
  • Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night
  • Place your baby on a firm sleep surface, such as on a safety-approved crib mattress, covered by a fitted sheet
  • Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of your baby's sleep area
  • Do not allow smoking around your baby
  • Keep your baby's sleep area close to, but separate from, where you and others sleep
  • Consider offering a clean, dry pacifier when placing your baby on his or her back to sleep
  • Do not let your baby overheat during sleep
  • Avoid products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS
  • Do not use home monitors to reduce the risk of SIDS
  • Reduce the chance that flat spots will develop on your baby's head by providing "Tummy Time" when your baby is awake and someone is watching; changing the direction that your baby lies in the crib; and avoiding too much time in car seats and carriers.