In 2019, SIDS claimed the lives of approximately 1,250 infants in the United States.*

According to the Ohio Child Fatality Review Twentieth Annual Report, from 2012 - 2016, 8% of sleep related infant deaths were diagnosed as SIDS in Ohio.  Even though the SIDS rates have been reduced dramatically over the years, other causes of infant death such as accidental asphyxia and overlay have increased with the total number of SUIDs remaining relatively constant.  This reduction in SIDS deaths is often explained as a coding shift by medical examiners due to better death scene investigations. Therefore, those deaths that were diagnosed as SIDS in the past are now being diagnosed as other types of SUID.  

In Ohio, from 2015 – 2019, sleep related infant deaths (688) account for 16% of all infant deaths reviewed (4,239) and 54% (371) for infants aged one month to three months. Eighty-eight percent of sleep-related deaths were for infants between 29 days and 1 year of age.

Nearly three infant deaths each week are sleep-related!  

Does the sleep environment make a difference?

We know that the safest way for a baby to sleep is alone, on their back in a safety-approved crib ~ ABC.  Tummy and side positions are not safe and there is a 40% increased risk of a sudden infant death if a baby shares a sleep surface with another person. A number of unsafe sleep circumstances were commonly reported for sleep-related deaths from 2015 - 2019:

  • Bed-sharing was reported at the time of the death in 55 percent (378) of reviews. Among reviews indicating bed-sharing, infants most often shared a sleep surface with an adult only (71 percent), an adult and another child (12 percent), or another child only (6 percent).
  • Of the 314 reviews that indicated bed-sharing with an adult or adult and child, 13 percent indicated the supervisor was impaired at the time of the incident with 83 percent impaired by alcohol or drugs or combination.
  • Forty-one reviews (11 percent of those indicating bed-sharing) indicated an adult fell asleep while feeding the infant, with nineteen bottle-feeding, eighteen breastfeeding, and four unknown.
  • Infants were put to sleep on their back in 53 percent of reviewed deaths, and found on their back in 33 percent of reviewed deaths. 
  • Of the 151 infant sleep-related deaths in which a crib or bassinette was indicated as the incident location, eighty-four percent (127) reported object(s) found in the sleep space. Among the 127 reviews indicating objects in the crib or bassinette, the most commonly found objects were thin blankets (72 percent), comforters or quilts (25 percent), and pillows (23 percent).
  • Secondhand smoke exposure was reported for 234 (34 percent) of the infant sleep-related deaths. 
  • Often times, sleep related infant deaths are difficult to diagnose even after a complete autopsy and diagnosis.  Thirty-four percent of the sleep-related deaths were diagnosed as unknown or undetermined cause.

Many sleep-related infant deaths are preventable and you can reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths by following the AAP recommendations.

Safe Sleep Guidelines

Ohio Child Fatality Review Twentieth Annual Report (This report includes reviews of child deaths that occurred in 2019 and aggregate reviews for 2015-2019)

*CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Compressed Mortality File.