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For families who have experienced the heartbreak of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), nothing makes sense. However, continued research is offering recommendations that may reduce the risk of future unexplained sleep related deaths.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SIDS is the death of a baby less than a year old who otherwise seems healthy. SIDS often occurs as the child is sleeping. Although the cause is often unknown, SIDS might be associated with breathing issues associated with sleep arousal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the term SIDS is also used to describe sleeping infant deaths that are caused by accidents, including suffocation or entrapment, which account for approximately 27% of sudden unexplained infant deaths.

Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Sam Hanke and his wife Maura, who was a kindergarten teacher at the time of their son Charlie’s death, realized if they could lose a child to SIDS, anyone could. Combining their medical expertise with their personal experience they started Charlie’s Kids Foundation to educate, support and advocate for safe sleep practices for all families.

In a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) it is estimated that approximately 3,500 infants die of sleep-related deaths in the US each year. Although this number has decreased since the 1990’s, research continues to reveal the need for education and prevention efforts.

In July 2022, the AAP released a full list of updated evidence-based recommendations for reducing infant death in the sleep environment that include:

  • Back to sleep for every sleep
  • Feeding of human milk
  • Keep soft objects such as pillows, pillow-like toys, quilts, comforters, mattress toppers, fur-like materials, and loose bedding such as blankets and nonfitted sheets away from the infant’s sleep area
  • Infants sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for at least their first 6 months 

Although there are additional recommendations in the updated report, the message for parents and caregivers is supine (back) sleeping continues to be the safest sleeping position for infants.

Author: Heather Reister, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County, reister.6@osu.edu

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Sudden unexpected infant death and sudden infant death syndrome: Data and statistics. Retrieved June 1, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/sids/data.htm

Charlie’s Story: Turning a tragic loss into a catalyst for change, (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://charlieskids.org/our-story/

Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2022 Recommendations for Reducing Infant Deaths in the Sleep Environment. Publications.aap.org. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2022 from https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/150/1/e2022057990/188304/Sleep-Related-Infant-Deaths-Updated-2022?autologincheck=redirected&_ga=2.254117454.774970786.1658929277-1670574471.1657804696

Sudden infant death syndrome, (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sudden-infant-death-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20352800

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