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The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health | October 22, 2015

Still too many SIDS deaths in CA

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden death of an infant less than one year old that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation. Between 1996 and 2013, California saw a 50% decline in its rate of SIDS, Kidsdata reports this month for SIDS Awareness Month. Despite the decline, SIDS claimed 0.3 for every 1,000 live births—that’s 30 infants for every 100,000 born—in California in 2011-13.

SIDS is the state’s third-leading cause of death for infants, after birth defects and disorders related to short gestation and low birthweight. Between 1994 and 2013, California’s overall infant mortality rate fell by 33%, from 7.0 to 4.7. Nationally, the infant mortality rate has fallen by 25% since 1994, but at 6.0 deaths for every 1,000 births, the rate is still higher than most other developed countries (PDF).

Rates of infant mortality vary by race, with African Americans/Blacks as well as Multiracial children experiencing rates of 10.2, more than twice the rate for white, Latino, and Asian/Pacific Islander infants. Nationally, American Indians/Alaska Natives have the highest rates of SIDS, a disparity that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are addressing via its 1,000 Grandmothers Project, which encourages tribal elders to mentor young Native parents regarding safe sleep practices for babies.

Some of the leading causes of infant mortality, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, are preventable and can be addressed through public policy. California currently promotes newborn screenings for potentially fatal birth defects, as they can help avert long-term health consequences, and even death, through early identification and treatment.

Public policy also can affect the risk factors for SIDS and preterm births. Risk factors can be reduced through many different strategies, such as ensuring that women are in good health before conception, avoid smoking and substance abuse while pregnant, forgo elective deliveries before 39 weeks gestation, are provided with breastfeeding support, and that women and other caretakers are taught how to provide a safe, healthy living environment for infants.

Public education regarding SIDS should be culturally appropriate, and target a wide constellation of potential caregivers for infants to ensure that babies sleep on their backs rather than their stomachs, on firm mattresses without loose bedding, and that they sleep alone in a bassinet or crib rather than co-sleep with a parent or caretaker.

Related Data:

Infant Mortality (summary)

Helpful Links

Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Reproductive Health

Infant Mortality Toolkit, 2013, National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health

International Comparisons of Infant Mortality and Related Factors: United States and Europe (2010) (PDF), 2014, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics Reports

Preconception Women's Health and Pediatrics: An Opportunity to Address Infant Mortality and Family Health, 2012, Academic Pediatrics

Understanding Racial and Ethnic Disparities in U.S. Infant Mortality Rates, 2011, National Center for Health Statistics

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