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Despite ‘Back to Sleep’ Campaign, Babies Continue to Die of SIDS

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Babies are still dying of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome each year, meaning that the Back to Sleep campaign, while successful, isn’t the complete answer to solving the tragic medical mystery of SIDS. An article published online today in the journal Pediatrics looks at other potential causes of SIDS.

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Following the Back to Sleep campaign launch in 1994, which instructed parents and caregivers to place babies to sleep on their backs instead of their bellies, the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome dropped by more than 50 percent and then plateaued; it remains the leading cause of death among infants ages 28 days to 12 months in the U.S.

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In the study published in Pediatrics, researchers looked at how risk factors for SIDS have evolved since the Back to Sleep campaign. They analyzed the records of 954 babies who died suddenly and unexpectedly in San Diego County between 1991 and 2008, of which 568 were attributed to SIDS. They found that while more babies were generally being placed on their backs following the Back to Sleep campaign (a jump from 30 percent to 85 percent), other risk factors for SIDS were rising, among them bed-sharing, which increased from 19.2 percent to 37.9 percent.

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Ultimately, researchers found that parent and caregiver education needs to go beyond instruction to avoid sleeping in the prone position (on babies’ bellies), as 99 percent of the SIDS infants studied had at least one intrinsic risk factor (like male gender or prenatal exposure to cigarettes) or one extrinsic risk factor (like stomach sleeping or soft bedding); 75 percent had at least one of each type of risk factor; and 57 percent had at least two extrinsic and one intrinsic risk factor, meaning that a sole focus on sleeping position isn’t enough to eradicate SIDS. Beyond sleeping position, other risk factors for SIDS include being male, premature birth, prenatal exposure to alcohol or cigarettes and bed-sharing or having unnecessary items in baby’s crib, including loose bedding, pillows or toys, and it’s crucial to address these risk factors in order to further decrease the incidence of SIDS.

Plus: Breastfeeding May Lower SIDS Risk

Did your healthcare provider ever discuss any additional risk factors for SIDS with you before you brought your baby home?

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