Sudden infant deaths decline nationally, yet in Louisiana, tragedy strikes too often

Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID) were on the rise nationally until 1992 when the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending parents put infants to sleep in an uncluttered crib on their back. 

By educating parents about babies sleeping on their backs, keeping cribs clear of clutter or soft bedding, the rate of infant deaths dropped by more than a third between 1990 and 2018. 

However, babies born in Louisiana are still much more likely to die suddenly. SUID includes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), accidental suffocation, as well as deaths from unknown causes. 

October is SIDS Awareness Month, an ideal time to remind parents how important it is that babies sleep alone in a safe space on their back. 

“These tragedies are preventable and avoidable,” said Jessica Brown, DO, MPH, a pediatric pulmonologist and sleep specialist with Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health. “Babies should always have a safe, uncluttered sleeping space just for them.” 

Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, or SUID, is when a baby less than 1 year of age dies, often while asleep or in bed.  

Some 3,600 babies die yearly in the U.S. from causes that are not obvious and require further investigation. Some may result from accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed.

The greatest risk factor is bed sharing. Unsafe bedding, not sleeping in a safe crib or bassinet, not sleeping on the back, or the presence of a drug- or alcohol-impaired adult are other contributing factors. 

SUID remains a serious problem in Louisiana. In 2015, the Louisiana Department of Health found that one in five babies were exposed to three or more risk factors, and 44 percent of Louisiana mothers admitted to sometimes, often or always bed sharing with their baby. 

The Louisiana Department of Health recommends the following infant sleep safety tips:

• Put babies to sleep on their back, not their stomachs or sides
• No other people or pets should share the baby’s sleep surface
• Don’t let babies sleep on soft surfaces such as adult beds, sofas, quilts, or waterbeds
• Only use safety-approved pack n’ play or crib with a firm mattress covered with a snug-fitting bed sheet.
• Keep babies’ sleeping area clear of comforters, pillows, loose blankets, quilts, stuffed toys, wedges, or positioners
• Overheating increases the risk of SUID. To prevent overheating, babies should be dressed in light clothing. Rooms where babies sleep should be kept at a temperature that is comfortable for a lightly-clothed adult.
• Caregivers should not smoke around babies, and babies should sleep only in smoke-free spaces. 

Click here for more information about sleep health for children.