Unsafe Sleep Practices Linked to Infant SIDS Deaths: Study Shows Alarming Findings on Hazardous Sleeping Arrangements

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – A recent study reveals that many infants who die from Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID) have been exposed to multiple unsafe sleep practices. Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine discovered that 76% of SUID cases involved hazardous sleep practices, such as sharing a bed with someone else, sleeping with soft items that could lead to suffocation, and sleeping on their bellies or sides.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, analyzed nearly 7,600 SUID cases in the United States between 2011 and 2020. It found that 60% of the cases involved infants sharing a sleep surface at the time of death, a practice strongly discouraged due to the risk of accidental suffocation from an adult or another child rolling over.

Dr. Fern Hauck, a senior researcher and safe-sleep expert, emphasized the importance of creating safer sleep environments for infants to prevent these tragic deaths. Sleep experts recommend infants to sleep alone on their backs in a crib with only a fitted sheet, as soft toys, bumpers, and blankets can increase the risk of suffocation. Babies who followed these guidelines were less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or other unknown causes.

The results underscore the need to educate parents about safe sleep practices before leaving the hospital and to provide ongoing support and guidance. With SUID rates in the U.S. still higher than in many other countries, Hauck stressed the importance of healthcare providers engaging with families to identify barriers to following safe-sleep guidelines and finding solutions together.

Furthermore, the study highlighted the significance of hospitals directing struggling families to resources that can help them afford a safe sleep space for their baby, such as a crib or bassinet. By emphasizing the importance of safe sleep practices and providing support to families, the hope is to reduce the number of SUID deaths in the U.S. and create a safer environment for infants nationwide.