More than 2,000 babies in the U.S. die mysteriously every year, their cause of death inexplicable. Called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, it is a tragedy without symptoms or explanation, a heartbreaking diagnosis offered when all other possible causes of death have been ruled out.
Based on field experience, research and statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pediatric forensic specialists have come to believe that many of the deaths previously attributed to SIDS may actually have resulted from unsafe infant sleeping conditions. As reported in a July 15, 2011 article on NPR.org, public health programs that encourage safe sleep environments have been successful in reducing infant deaths.
In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that babies sleep on their backs. In less than a decade, the ensuing Back to Sleep public health campaign reduced unexplained infant deaths by 50% nationwide. Further evidence of the link between presumed SIDS deaths and infants’ sleep environments was uncovered by Baltimore, Maryland pediatric forensic investigators. Investigation of infant deaths between 2002 and 2010 found that 90% of the suspected SIDS deaths in Baltimore were actually caused by unsafe sleep environments.
The Baltimore investigation led to the development of the ABCs of safe sleep campaign (see our previous post) to educate parents about infant sleep hazards and teach them how to create a safe sleep environment for their baby.