Charlottesville, Virginia – Unsafe sleep practices have been found to contribute to over three-quarters of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths in various jurisdictions from 2011 to 2020, according to a recent study. The research highlights the urgent need for more comprehensive safe-sleep education for new parents, especially from healthcare professionals.

   Among the 7,595 infant deaths reviewed, nearly 60% of the infants were found sharing a sleep surface, such as a bed, at the time of death. This behavior is strongly discouraged by sleep experts due to the risk of accidental suffocation if a parent or bed partner were to roll over onto the infant.

   Infants who died while sharing a sleep surface were often younger than 3 months old, non-Hispanic Black, publicly insured, and in the care of a parent or a caregiver impaired by drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, these infants were frequently found in adult beds, chairs, or couches instead of the recommended cribs or bassinets.

   Dr. Fern Hauck, a safe-sleep expert at UVA Health and the University of Virginia School of Medicine, expressed concern over the prevalence of hazardous sleep practices leading to Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths. She emphasized the importance of working with families to promote safer sleep environments for infants.

   Analyzing data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s SUID Case Registry, Dr. Hauck and her team aimed to understand the factors contributing to Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths. Their findings underscored the need for increased public education on safe-sleep practices and for healthcare providers to play a more active role in educating new parents.

   The researchers noted that bedsharing was rarely the sole risk factor present during a child’s death, indicating the need for comprehensive safe-sleep counseling for families. They emphasized the importance of healthcare providers going beyond simply inquiring about where an infant sleeps, advocating for ongoing conversations about safe-sleep guidelines and providing resources for families in need.

   In their paper published in Pediatrics, the researchers stressed the significance of empowering parents to follow safe-sleep practices even after leaving the hospital. They highlighted the role of clinicians in identifying barriers to adherence to guidelines and working collaboratively with families to overcome them.

   Dr. Hauck urged for continued efforts to reduce SUID deaths in the U.S., emphasizing the need for clinicians and caregivers to engage in meaningful conversations with at-risk families. The SUID research team, which includes various researchers such as Alexa B. Erck Lambert and Carrie K. Shapiro-Mendoza, has no financial interest in the work, further emphasizing the importance of prioritizing infant safety in sleep practices.

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