Researchers Spotlight SIDS Risk Factors Other Than Sleep Environment

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Factors Other Than Sleep Position Contributed to SIDS Decline

The ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign has long been credited with playing a major role in reducing SIDS deaths nationwide. Now, new research indicates other factors may have contributed to the decline in sudden infant deaths over the last two decades, including a drop in smoking and teen pregnancy rates.

The research was conducted by Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and was published this week in the journal Pediatrics.

Launched in the 1990’s, Back to Sleep aimed to educate parents about the dangers of placing babies to sleep on their tummies rather than their backs. Experts widely agree that the back is the safest sleep position for infants under one year old.

New Research

In this new study, researchers found that over the same time period that Back to Sleep was underway, the nation also saw significant decreases in maternal smoking rates and teen pregnancies, along with simultaneous improvements in neonatal care and an increase in breastfeeding, all of which likely contributed to the drop in SIDS rates.

“This suggests that broad trends in the health of pregnant women and babies influence infant mortality across the board,” said Richard Goldstein, MD, lead author of the study and a pediatrician in the Pediatric Advanced Care Team at Boston Children’s and Dana-Farber.

“While we continue to stress safe sleep environments, we should also move forward in improving overall maternal and infant health and in researching the underlying biology that may well also influence SIDS.”

Goldstein stressed the need for continued efforts to understand the biologic vulnerabilities of infants prone to SIDS, in addition to promoting safe sleep environments.

For more information on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and its risk factors, visit our SIDS resource section here.

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