Study Examines Risk Factors for Unexplained Infant Deaths and Sleep-Related Suffocation

Posted on December 06, 2022

A study, “Risk Factors for Suffocation and Unexplained Causes of Infant Deaths,” to be published in the January 2023 Pediatrics confirmed previously identified risk factors for unexplained infant death and independently estimated risk factors for sleep-related suffocation. The study, published online Dec. 5, found that non-approved sleep surface use was associated with 4-fold higher suffocation risk, but not associated with unexplained death. Soft bedding use was more strongly associated with suffocation than unexplained death. The AAP recommends that, for safe sleep, infants should sleep alone on their backs on a flat non-inclined surface without soft pillows, toys or bedding. The AAP also recommends that infants share the same bedroom – but not bed – with parents for at least the first six months of life. The study, based on data from the 2016–2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, included 112 sleep-related suffocation cases with 448 age-matched controls and 300 unexplained infant death cases with 1,200 age-matched controls. The study breaks down risk factors for sleep-related suffocation that previously had not been fully characterized separately from unexplained infant death. Researchers suggest that it may be easier for parents to understand risk factors that may lead to death from suffocation as compared with understanding that risk factors may lead to deaths without a known cause. They recommend using study findings to improve messaging about safe infant sleep.