The great majority of infants who unexpectedly suffocated and died in their sleep in recent years were bedded in unsafe sleeping conditions, according to a new study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that underscores decades-old public health guidelines.
In about three-fourths of sudden unexplained infant death (SUID) cases caused by suffocation, the children were sleeping with stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, crib bumpers or other soft objects that can cut off the baby’s airway, according to the report published recently in the journal Pediatrics.
Less than 1 in 5 of those suffocation deaths could be definitely linked to such soft, loose objects, but their presence in an infant’s sleeping environment is suggestive in many more, according to the report. “Unsafe sleep factors,” the report said, “were common in explained and unexplained SUID cases, but deaths could only be classified as explained suffocation for (about) 20% of cases.”
SUID is the leading cause of death for infants between 1 month and 1 year of age, according to the CDC. About 3,500 infants die of it each year, and the numbers remain stubbornly high in that area despite decades of advice to keep such objects out of infants’ sleeping areas.