Sudden infant death syndrome is the number-one cause of all sudden unexpected deaths in infancy. The fact that a child’s death can be unexpected and inexplicable, even after tests and medical examination, is terrifying for any parent. However, even though we still don’t know the exact causes of SIDS, we’ve learned that there are certain factors contributing to its likelihood.
In this case, therefore, fear of the unexpected is best fought with knowledge. That’s why we’ve done our research and compiled several essential SIDS statistics. Read on to find out more about this syndrome and what you can do to protect your baby from it.
Top 10 SIDS Statistics and Facts
- SIDS causes 38.7% of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy.
- In 2013, approximately 15,000 children died of SIDS globally.
- An infant is most vulnerable to SIDS during the first six months of his/her life.
- Baby boys are at higher risk from the syndrome than girls.
- Smokers’ children are three times more likely to be affected by SIDS.
- Sudden infant death syndrome is mostly associated with nighttime sleep.
- Babies protected from overheating are less likely to be affected by the syndrome.
- The likelihood of SIDS is higher if the mother is younger than 20.
- SIDS rates in the US have dropped by about 50% in the past two decades.
- Sleeping on the back can decrease the likelihood of SIDS by at least 50%.
General SIDS Stats
In the first segment, we’ll share some general information about the SIDS phenomenon. We’ll start by defining it and showing how common it is on a global level. Finally, we’ll pinpoint the countries where SIDS rates are at their lowest and highest.
1. It’s estimated that in 2013, approximately 15,000 children died of SIDS globally.
SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome shouldn’t be confused with SUDI—sudden unexpected death in infancy. A crucial element of a SIDS definition is its inexplicableness.
In these cases, the cause of a baby’s death can’t be determined even after detailed investigations. Furthermore, this syndrome is associated with children up to one year old, and is also known as crib or cot death because it usually happens when a child is sleeping.
SUDI, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive term. Besides SIDS, it also includes any other cause of sudden death in infants, such as severe infections or physical defects.
2. Data from 2018 shows SIDS causes 38.7% of sudden unexpected deaths in infancy.
Therefore, cot death appears to be the most common type of SUDI. Accidental strangulation and suffocation in bed is the second most common cause, leading to death in 24.3% of the cases. However, as much as 37% of infant deaths can happen due to unknown causes.
3. The first six months is when infants are most vulnerable to SIDS, as age statistics indicate.
(Sleep Foundation) (Parents)
While the period between 1 and 4 months is the riskiest, 90% of deaths caused by SIDS happen to babies up to 6 months old. Still, it can happen anytime during the first year of a baby’s life, after which it’s considered to be extremely rare.
4. Between 2015 and 2019, the average SUID rate in America was 91.7 per 100,000 live births.
Mississippi had the highest rate—178.3 per 100,000 live births, which is almost twice the average. Vermont, on the other hand, scored the lowest with 46.3 cases, which is a little over half the national average.
5. Crib death is mostly associated with nighttime sleep.
For instance, a 2006 study shows that 83% of SIDS occurrences were nocturnal. However, it was also found that the syndrome can take its toll at any hour of the day.
Approximately 9% of the infants who were affected by it during the day were seen alive and well 10 minutes before discovery, and 38% of them were observed alive 30 minutes before. Daytime SIDS cases also correlated more with sleeping on the side than nighttime occurrences did.
6. According to a 2010 study, in 1990, New Zealand had the highest syndrome rate among developed countries.
More precisely, SIDS statistics by country show that 2.9 SIDS deaths occurred per every 1,000 live births in New Zealand. Japan, on the other hand, was marked by the lowest SIDS rate. That year, there were 0.3 SIDS cases per 1,000 live births in this country.
The situation was quite different in 2005. Though NZ ranked first again, its rate in 2005 was significantly lower than fifteen years earlier, having dropped by 72%—to 0.80. The Netherlands had the lowest SIDS rate of 0.1, which implies a 82% change compared to where it was in 1990.
SIDS Risk Factors Statistics
This article section reveals significant data regarding the factors which can increase or decrease the possibility of SIDS occurrences. In other words, you’ll find out more about who is most at risk of being affected by the syndrome
7. SIDS stats by gender indicate that baby boys are at higher risk from the syndrome than girls.
Research has shown that in about 60% of these tragic cases, the affected infants are male. Though the reason for this remains unclear to this day, one of the assumptions is that male newborns might be more prone to specific abnormalities in their arousal pathways.
8. Smokers’ children are at higher risk of SIDS than non-smokers’ children.
(BMJ Journals) (The Lullaby Trust) (CDC)
According to a 2000 study, smokers’ babies are three times more likely to be affected by this syndrome. Moreover, over 33% of crib death cases could actually be prevented if mothers quit smoking altogether during pregnancy.
However, secondhand smoke plays a significant role here as well since it’s also associated with a higher likelihood of SIDS. That’s why parents are strongly advised to never expose their children to cigarette smoke and keep their home a no-smoking area.
9. According to SIDS statistics, babies exposed to overheating are more likely to be affected by the syndrome.
(NIH) (Red Nose Australia)
It’s common knowledge that babies are more sensitive to temperature extremes than adults. Parents therefore need to be extra careful about their infant’s exposure to heat.
Different studies have pointed at a correlation between higher ambient temperature, excessive layers of clothing, and increased SIDS risk. So, remembering to keep the room temperature comfortable and avoid over-insulation are also important parts of learning how to prevent SIDS.
10. The likelihood of SIDS is higher if the mother is younger than 20.
According to SIDS statistics by age, there’s a link between teenage motherhood and increased rates of cot death occurrences. Despite all the research that has been conducted so far, the correlation between the two is still not exactly clear.
Part of the explanation is thought to be teenage mothers’ ignorance of or attitude toward experts’ recommendations about safe sleep practices. Many mothers who are educated about SIDS prevention disregard the safety guidelines and trust their instinct in caring for their babies.
SIDS Facts About Prevention
Finally, we’ll be talking more about some of the most important ways the chances of SIDS can be reduced and the specific practices that can actually help improve infants’ safety and health.
11. Educating parents about sleep safety practices can help decrease co-sleeping SIDS rates.
It’s generally not recommended for a baby and a parent to sleep on the same surface. Some of the most dangerous co-sleeping situations involve sleeping on a chair or sofa, co-sleeping after a parent has used alcohol or drugs, and parents who are regular smokers.
According to UNICEF’s SIDS stats, it’s estimated that the number of co-sleeping SIDS cases could be decreased by up to 90% if parents prevented co-sleeping in hazardous conditions.
12. Sleeping on the back and not on the tummy can decrease the chances of sudden infant death syndrome by at least 50%.
Prone sleeping is therefore considered to be a great risk factor for SIDS. This is why a campaign called Back to Sleep (nowadays known as Safe to Sleep) was initiated in 1994.
Its purpose was to educate and raise people’s awareness of the safest sleep practices. Thanks to the campaign, the number of infants sleeping on the back rose from 17% in 1993 to 73% in 2010. This resulted in a significant reduction in the numbers of SIDS cases.
13. According to SIDS statistics by country, SIDS occurrences in the US have dropped by about 50% in the past two decades.
CDC’s data tells us that in 2019, there were 33.3 SIDS cases per every 100,000 live births. Compared to the 90s, that number is considerably lower.
In the year of 1999, there were 66.9 SIDS occurrences per 100,000 live births. Furthermore, the preceding years were marked by even higher numbers. In 1991, there were 130.12 cases of SIDS.
It’s considered that one of the greatest reasons for the visible decreases over the past few decades is that parents are becoming more educated about SIDS prevention. By learning more about the risk factors, they can act in a timely manner and decrease the chances of SIDS.
What is SIDS?
SIDS stands for sudden infant death syndrome, and is also known as cot death or crib death because it mostly happens during sleep. The syndrome affects children completely unexpectedly, and before it, the baby seems perfectly healthy. In other words, there are no detectable SIDS symptoms.
If the cause of an infant’s death remains unknown even after an autopsy, thorough medical history research, and a death scene investigation, it’s determined as SIDS. Though it’s not clear what triggers the syndrome, we do know it typically affects babies up to one year old, and seems to be more common among boys.
Who is at the highest risk of SIDS?
Although SIDS prevention isn’t entirely possible since the syndrome’s cause is unknown, certain factors have been linked with an increased chance of dying from it. For example, co-sleeping, sleeping in the prone position, as well as exposure to overheating and cigarette smoke can increase the likelihood of this syndrome. The risk is also higher if there’s no/little prenatal care, or delayed prenatal care.
Though the previously mentioned factors can be controlled, unfortunately, there are also certain factors which parents can’t really affect. Here we can include premature birth, children’s gender, or weight at birth.
Does tummy sleeping really cause SIDS?
Studies suggest that sleeping in the prone position could increase SIDS risk in more than one way. Firstly, it affects breathing. By repeatedly breathing in his/her own exhaled breath, a baby can start lacking oxygen and therefore be prevented from breathing properly.
Moreover, this sleeping position can interfere with body heat dissipation and lead to overheating. Upper airway obstruction is another one of the possible dangers of sleeping in the tummy.
(Safe to Sleep)
What is the peak age of SIDS?
In as many as 90% of cases, the syndrome affects infants during the first six months of their life. However, the risk seems to peak between one and four months of age.
(Sleep Foundation) (Parents)
How common is SIDS?
Recent data reveals that roughly 39% of all sudden unexpected deaths in infancy are caused by this syndrome. In 2013, there were about 15,000 recorded cases of SIDS worldwide.
What is the SIDS rate in the US?
In 2019, the average SIDS rate in America was 33.3 per 100,000 live births. However, SIDS statistics reflected an even grimmer reality in 1990, when the rate reached 130.3 deaths.
Does co sleeping increase risk of SIDS?
Co-sleeping is said to increase risk of SIDS. Firstly, most adults’ beds have covers and other items that could easily cover the baby’s head and create a hazardous situation.
Bed-sharing also imposes other potential dangers. For example, there’s a higher chance of a baby falling or suffocating. Additionally, parents can unintentionally roll over in their sleep and harm their baby without even realizing it.
That’s why it would be best for your baby and you not to sleep in the same bed. Instead, sleep in the same room, in separate beds. Simply place the crib in your room so you can keep an eye on your baby whenever necessary and react more quickly in case of an emergency.
After going through these SIDS statistics, we can conclude it’s still quite an underresearched area with lots of inconclusive evidence. However, relevant studies conducted so far have managed to specify several safety practices and methods that can lower the risk of this syndrome.
These safety guidelines are even more important to adhere to if we take into account that there are no known SIDS symptoms. So, arm yourself with knowledge, do your research, and always follow medical professionals’ advice to keep your baby healthy.