WASHINGTON — A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the leading cause of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs) is unsafe bedding.
The study, published on Tuesday by the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that an unsafe sleep environment was linked to 72% of the health agency's registered SUIDs. The study investigated 4,929 sudden unexpected infant death cases from 2011 to 2017.
The research found that of all the SUIDs in the CDC's registry, 31% of cases were attributed to “suffocation” or “possible suffocation” and 41% were classified as “unexplained” but linked to “unsafe sleep factors.” Researchers found that soft bedding was attributed to 75% of airway obstruction deaths.
The CDC recommendations to prevent SUID include keeping soft bedding, like blankets, pillow, bumper pads, and soft toys out of a baby's sleeping area.
"Some parents may feel they should add sheets or blankets to their baby’s crib to help keep their baby warm and comfortable while sleeping," the CDC said. "However, sheets, comforters, and blankets can increase the risk of suffocation or overheat your baby."
"Researchers concluded that while the SUID Registry offers tremendous information, further research and improvements to death investigations and documentation are needed to help further improve safe sleep guidelines and educational efforts to prevent SUIDs," the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a press release about the new study.
To help babies sleep safely, the CDC supports recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents are encouraged to place their infant on their back for all sleep times, including naps and at night. A firm, flat sleep surface like a mattress in a safety-approved crib covered only by a fitted sheet, is the safest place for a baby to sleep, according to the guidance.
The CDC said some parents or caregivers might want to place a baby on a soft surface to help the baby be more comfortable while sleeping, but soft surfaces can increase the baby's risk of a sleep-related death, which is supported by the new study.
Guidance from the CDC claims that accidental suffocation or strangulation can happen when a baby is sleeping in an adult bed or on other unsafe sleep surfaces. So, it's recommended that a baby sleeps in a crib or bassinet in the same room as a parent or caregiver until the baby is at least six months old, or ideally until the baby is 1 year old.
"Sharing a room with your baby is much safer than bed sharing and may decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%," the CDC recommendations said. "Also, placing the crib close to your bed so that the baby is within view and reach can also help make it easier to feed, comfort, and monitor your baby."