If you’re a new parent, you know the drill: to prevent SIDS, put your baby to sleep on his back in a crib free of pillows, blankets and bumper pads.
Now, a new U.S. study in Pediatrics says that while safe sleeping campaigns have helped reduce infant deaths during sleep, more needs to be done to prevent SIDS—factors like smoking during pregnancy, prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol can all increase the risk, while better prenatal care and increased rates of breastfeeding can help protect infants from SIDS.
Researchers looked at data from 947,156 infant deaths over three decades, from 1983 to 2012. During that period, SIDS rates declined 71.3 percent. But according to the study’s authors, while SIDS deaths seem to have hit a plateau, the rates of other sleep-related deaths (accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed) have increased. With all of these diagnoses included (SIDS, strangulation, etc), the authors point out that the rate of all infant deaths has actually not gone down since the late 1990s.
“If we are to further impact infant mortality rates and eliminate SIDS, focus on the sleep environment will continue to be important, but will likely be insufficient,” the study’s authors write. “Public health efforts will need to also focus on decreasing intrinsic risk through promotion of smoking cessation, elimination of in utero drug and alcohol exposure, increased rates of breastfeeding, and access to high quality prenatal care.”