Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

WASHINGTON, D.C., 1997 - Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death, is a cause of infant deaths that remains unexplained even after autopsy. It is estimated that 10,000 deaths from SIDS occur each year. While there are many theories as to possible triggering events, the cause of SIDS remains a mystery.

It has been noted that SIDS occurs more frequently when infants sleep on their bellies (prone) as compared with sleeping on their backs (supine) or sides.

The American Academy of Pediatrics in 1992 recommended that all healthy infants be placed either on their backs or sides for sleeping. This recommendation has been partly credited with reducing the percentage of U.S. parents placing infants on their bellies for sleep from 70% in 1992 to 29% in 1995.

Studies have shown that over one third of SIDS deaths occur while infants are in organized child care environments. This is while only 17% of U.S. infants attend such care facilities.

A recent survey study published in the journal PEDIATRICS (1997;100:75-78) was designed to evaluate the policies of child care centers in regard to infant sleep positions. Only 57% of the centers surveyed were aware of recommendations regarding infant sleep positions. Infants were placed on their bellies in half of the centers and exclusively on their bellies in 20%.

The authors of the study concluded that educational efforts must be directed at both parents and child care providers in order to minimize an important preventable risk factor for SIDS.


Last Editorial Review: 12/31/1997



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