In Oregon, there are about 40 babies die in their sleep every year. Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome (SUID) is defined as the death of an infant less than one year of age that occurs suddenly and unexpectedly, and whose cause is not immediately obvious before an investigation takes place. There are three common types of infant mortality that fall under SUID:
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Accidental Suffocation & Strangulation in Bed (ASSB)
- and unknown
Sleep-related deaths that result from suffocation can occur when the baby is put to sleep with other people and not their own crib, if there are objects in the crib, or if the baby is placed on their stomach for sleep. These types of deaths are related to ASSB and are preventable in most cases.
There is not one clear cause of SIDS, but it is believed that there are three factors that are present to cause SIDS, this is referred to as the Triple Risk Model. The Triple Risk Model says that infants who are vulnerable, that are in a critical development period and has outside stressors are at a higher risk for SIDS.
Vulnerable means there is an underlying health risk or factor that increases the baby’s risk, making them susceptible. Vulnerabilities include birth defects, genetics, and sex, race and ethnicity factors. Examples include infants born prematurely, familial SIDS, male infants and infants that are American Indian/Alaska Native and African American in the United States
Critical development period refers to the infant’s first 6 months of life when the infant grows at a fast pace and changes in breathing, sleeping, heart rates, blood pressure, etc. occur in the infant.
Outside stressors are things in the baby’s environment, such as second-hand smoke, overheating, sleep position, and alcohol and drug use in the home that increases their risk.
Prevention of SUID, Including SIDS and ASSB
The most important thing you can do for your baby’s health and your health is to quit smoking. For help, call the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-784-8669 or online at www.quitnow.net/oregon.
Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of SUID. It is recommended that babies should be breastfed for the first 6 months.
Creating a Safe Sleeping Environment ABC
Creating a safe sleep environment are things parents and caregivers can do to protect an infant from SIDS and ASSB. An easy tip to remember is the ABC’s of Safe Sleep!
- Keep your baby’s sleep area near your bed for the first 6 to 12 months. Place your baby’s crib, bassinet, and portable crib or play yard next to your bed. This is called room sharing and will make it easier for you to feed, comfort and watch your baby without increasing the risk of sleep-related injury death.
- If you bring your baby into bed with you to feed or comfort them, make sure you put them back in their bed before you fall asleep. Placing your baby’s crib next to your bed can help make this easier. If you fall asleep in bed with your baby while feeding or comforting them, place them back to sleep in their own crib as soon as you wake up.
- If you place your baby on their back to sleep and they roll over in their sleep, you do not need to move them to their back.
- Until their first birthday – for naps and at night. Babies breathe better on their backs than on their stomachs or sides. Sleeping on their backs opens up their chests and makes it easier for them to draw in more oxygen to their brains. Babies who sleep on their sides can more easily roll onto their stomach, making it harder for them to breathe and increasing their risk of suffocation. Babies are also MORE likely to choke if they spit up when placed on their stomach.
- Use a firm sleep surface such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib or bassinet. Though it might seem more comfortable to put a pillow on top of the mattress, babies may suffocate on soft surfaces
- Loose and soft bedding can be very dangerous to a baby. Do not place pillows, blankets, toys, or bumper pads anywhere in your baby’s sleep area. If one of those things gets on the baby’s face, he may not be able to move his face away and can suffocate.
Other Safe Sleeping Environment Prevention Tips
- Try a sleep sack instead of a blanket. Be sure baby is not too warm.
- Breastfeed your baby.
- Consider offering a pacifier at naptime and bedtime. If you are breastfeeding, wait until breastfeeding is going well before offering a pacifier. This usually takes 3 to 4 weeks. It's OK if your baby doesn't want to use a pacifier. You can try offering again, but some babies don't like to use pacifiers. If your baby takes a pacifier and it falls out after they fall asleep, you don’t have to put it back in.
- Get your baby immunized.
- Make sure no one smokes in your home or around your baby.
- Don't use alcohol or drugs.
- Don't rely on home baby monitors to be sure that baby is safe.
- Avoid overheating and head covering.
- Talk with grandparents and other caregivers about this safe sleep information.
Resources for Parents, Care Givers and Medical Professional