It’s the worst nightmare for a new parent. They put their child down to sleep for the night, wake up in the morning, and discovered that their newborn has stopped breathing. Infants can suffocate in cribs, co-sleeping arrangements, or even while laying on the floor. Sometimes there isn’t anything a parent can do to prevent this from happening, but there are ways that the risks of infant suffocation can be reduced.
Facts About Infant Suffocation
1. The risk of SIDS can be reduced by having a sleeping infant share a room with an adult who does not smoke.
2. Rates of sudden infant death from suffocation or strangulation have quadrupled in the past 20 years in the United States.
3. When SIDS and suffocation deaths are combined, more than 3,000 infants lose their lives every year.
4. 18. That’s the annual number of infants who suffocate because of their co-sleeping arrangements in an adult bed.
5. Unintentional suffocation is the leading cause of injury death among children aged <1 year in the United States. 6. Between 2008 and 2011, more babies died from suffocation due to unsafe sleep than all accidental deaths for children under age 14 combined.
7. Infants are 40x more likely to suffocate while sleeping in an adult bed when compared to their crib.
8. Sofa sleeping for infants increases the risks of suffocation 17x more than crib sleeping.
9. 1 in 2 infants sleeps with bedding that is potentially hazardous to their health.
10. Teen moms are the most likely to use bedding options that would be considered to be dangerous.
11. Using a pillow has been shown to increase the chance of SIDS by up to 2.5x when compared to not using a pillow.
12. Two-thirds of the infants who suffocate every year, on average, will be boys.
13. Having an infant with a low birth weight puts the child at a 3x greater risk of suffocating.
14. 13% of U.S. infants are routinely cosleeping with nearly 50% sharing the bed for part of the nights.
15. The number of suffocation-related injuries, which can include brain damage) has grown from approximately 18,000 to more than 20,000 annually.
16. 60% of the infant suffocation incidents that occur every year can be directly attributed to the use of a pillow.
17. 84% of the world’s strangulation deaths occur to children who are under the age of 4.
18. Poorly maintained and old cribs account for more than 30 infant strangulation deaths each year.
19. Choking makes up nearly half of all the toy-related deaths that occur in the United States every year.
20. 3 out 5 infant suffocation incidents occur because of the state of the child’s sleeping environment.
21. When parents are told to place infants on their back, avoid rooms that are too warm, and not use loose blankets or pillows, infant suffocation rates have plummeted.
22. Unexpected infant deaths feel from 160 per 100,000 in 1984, or 5,885 total, to 92.4 in 2004 or 3,798 total.
When we think of infant suffocation, the first thing that comes to mind is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome [SIDS]. SIDS may have numerous contributing factors that cause a child to stop breathing. Suffocation occurs with SIDS, but not all cases of suffocation are because of SIDS. Sometimes a child can get caught up in their blankets and sheets, become trapped in their crib, or simply roll over and not have the abdominal strength to continue breathing.
How Can Infant Suffocation Be Prevented?
One of the most effective methods to reduce infant suffocation is to have a parent present in the room where an infant is sleeping. This doesn’t need to be a co-sleeping arrangement. Even having a fan running in the room can help to prevent sudden suffocation. Making sure the infant’s sleeping arrangements do not include loose materials or side sleeping, unless recommended by the infant’s doctor, to further prevent suffocation.
The rates of infant suffocation are documented to have increased by 14% between 1996-2004 in the United States. The biggest reason for this increase is because of overlay, which occurs when a parent rolls over on their infant while co-sleeping.
What’s the best solution? Have a parent sleep in the same room as the infant, but place the infant into a crib or bassinet that has zero loose bedding. This prevents overlay from occurring and will stop the infant from getting materials near their airway.