Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), which are sleep-related deaths due to suffocation as well as those formerly known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), is defined as the death of an infant less than 1 year of age without other obvious causes. SUID kills one baby nearly every week in Cook County, IL. In our county, SUID occurs 15 times more often in Black babies, and nearly 3 times more often in Hispanic babies, than in White babies. The rate of SUID for preterm Black infants in Cook County is 472 per 100,000 preterm births – or 1 in 212 preterm Black births. Though these deaths are largely preventable by practicing safe sleep, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, safe sleep guidelines are often not followed because awareness of how often SUID occurs remains low among parents, communities, and those in healthcare. Awareness remains low for a number of reasons – these deaths never make the news, are difficult to talk about, and have long been considered tragedies that “just happen” – all of which limit hope and trust in prevention.
The American Academy of (AAP) is the largest, leading organization of pediatricians and providers making recommendations for practices that impact the health, safety, and well-being of children. The recommendations of the AAP to reduce the rate of SUID deaths help parents and caregivers remain hopeful that there are steps that can be taken to reduce suffocation risk and death during infant sleep.
The cornerstone of preventing SUID is known as the “ABCs” of safe sleep and includes having babies sleep Alone, on their Backs, in their Cribs.
A– Babies should sleep alone.
Babies should sleep alone in their cribs, but close enough that someone can hear and respond to them quickly, or room-sharing. Room-sharing protects infants from SUID, is widely encouraged and practiced in many hospitals following delivery.
Myth: It is safer for me to sleep with my baby so I can quickly respond to them.
Truth: Unsafe sleep factors such as sleeping with another person have been found to increase the risk of infant death by suffocation. Suffocation happens when a parent or sibling accidentally lays over the infant; when an infant rolls and smothers in soft bedding; or becomes wedged between the bed and wall, making it impossible for them to breathe. This risk is higher for babies who are premature, or who have parents that are under the influence of any sedating substance such as prescription medications, alcohol or other drugs.
B– is for backs.
Babies should be placed on their backs for every sleep and nap.
Myth: If my baby spits up on while asleep on his back he will choke.
Truth: If babies sleeping on their backs spit up, the food coming from the stomach to the throat (esophagus) must work against gravity to get into their windpipe (trachea). However, if they are sleeping on their tummies, it is much easier for spit up to travel from their stomach and go into their windpipe, causing fluid to enter into their lungs, which is also known as aspiration.
Myth: If my baby sleeps on his back, he will develop a flat head.