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Unsafe sleep practices lead to 3500 infant deaths each year

Newborn babies sleep in a hospital nursery.
Newborn babies sleep in a hospital nursery. Photo: Tommaso Di Girolamo / AGF / UIG via Getty Images

After years of sharp declines in sleep-related infant deaths in the U.S., progress has slowed considerably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns in a new report.

Key stat: Roughly 3,500 infants die from sleep-related issues in America annually. The causes range from SIDS and accidental suffocation in cribs to deaths from unknown causes. Despite intensive public education efforts, only half of mothers say they receive “safe sleep” advice from healthcare providers during pre- and post-natal visits, CDC said.

A high-profile, national public education campaign to raise awareness about the risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome contributed to dramatic decreases in sleep-related infant deaths during the 1990s. But in recent years the rate of these deaths has held fairly constant.

  • Despite intensive “safe sleep” public education efforts, CDC found that roughly 1 in 5 mothers were still placing their infants to sleep on their side or stomach.
  • More than half of mothers reported that they at least occasionally allowed infants to sleep in the same bed with them.
  • More than a third said they put loose or soft materials in their infants’ cribs. Unsafe sleep practices tended to be more prevalent among mothers who were younger than 25, black or poorly educated.

Be smart:  Here are some of the key “safe sleep” practices recommended for infants by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Place infants on their backs during sleep times (including naps).
  • Make sure infants are sleeping on a firm surface.
  • Don’t let infants sleep with soft objects or loose bedding.
  • Parents shouldn’t sleep in the same bed with their babies.
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