The rate of infants dying suddenly and unexpectedly has dropped in recent years, but data show that racial disparities persist. Babies born to American Indian and Alaska Natives and African American families suffer much higher rates of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) than other races and ethnicities, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show. Between 2011 and 2014, 194.1 American Indian and Alaska Native infants and 170.2 African American infants per 100,000 live births died from SUID nationwide. Those rates are significantly higher compared with 83.8 for whites, 51.1 for Hispanics and 32.1 for Asian or Pacific Islander babies per 100,000 live births, during the same time period. SUID encompasses sudden infant death syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, as well accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, and other unspecified causes of death in children up to a year old.
An 8-week-old baby boy slips out of his sleeping grandmother’s arms and suffocates in the folds of a couch. A 7-week-old girl is found dead lying on her stomach in her mother’s bed, where she had been placed to sleep, as a nearby crib sat unused. These are two of 23 infants who died in Connecticut last year of “sudden infant death syndrome” or undetermined causes. Of those cases, 18 were found to have risk factors associated with the sleep environment, including co-sleeping in an adult bed with parents, sleeping with a heavy blanket or pillows, or being placed on their stomachs. In a public health alert issued Monday, the Office of the Child Advocate and the Connecticut Child Fatality Review Panel warned that the number of Connecticut infants who died between 2001 and 2013 in cases involving unsafe sleep conditions was almost three times higher than the number of infants who died from child abuse.