Last Updated: November 2019
Author: Division of Maternal and Child Health, Vermont Department of Health
Sudden, unexplained infant deaths (SUIDs) are those for which no cause of death was obvious when the infant died. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (formerly known as crib death) has been recorded as a frequent cause of SUIDs. SIDS is "the sudden death of an infant under 1 year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history". SIDS should not be diagnosed if these criteria are not met. In recent years, CDC and researchers have realized that many of the "SUID" or "SIDS" deaths should be classified as Accidental Suffocation and Strangulation in Bed (ASSB).www.cdc.gov/sids/data.htm
Nationally, there are more than 4,500 infant deaths annually attributed to some form of SUID. In Vermont, infant deaths associated with unsafe sleep environment range from 4-7 annually. Mechanisms that can lead to accidental suffocation or strangulation include the following:
- Suffocation by soft bedding—such as when a pillow or waterbed mattress covers an infant's nose and mouth.
- Overlay—when another person rolls on top of or against the infant.
- Wedging or entrapment—when an infant is wedged between two objects such as a mattress and wall, bed frame, or furniture.
- Strangulation—such as when an infant's head and neck become caught between crib railings.
Infants up to one year of age are at an increased risk of suffocation when sleeping in an unsafe sleep environment. Public health and medical professionals are in a positon to reduce this risk by educating parents and caregivers about how to provide a safe sleep environment for infants. Elements of a safe sleep environment include:
- Always place babies on their backs to sleep for every sleep.
- Use a firm sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, covered by a fitted sheet.
- Have the baby share your room, not your bed. Your baby should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair alone, with you, or with anyone else.
- Keep soft objects such as pillows and loose bedding out of your baby's sleep area.