INFANT SLEEP-RELATED DEATH
Infant sleep-related death is a main cause of death in babies between 1 month and 1 year old. To lower these deaths, it is important to increase public awareness and reduce risks. In addition, families that have lost a child to a sleep death must receive support.
What is infant sleep-related death?
Infant sleep-related death is the death of a baby during sleep. Infant sleep death can be related to environmental factors, such as, how and where a baby sleeps. It can also be related to biological factors, such as poor brainstem function. In some cases, the cause of infant sleep-related death is never known. African American and Native American babies are about two times more likely to die of SIDS and other sleep-related death than white babies.
What is sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?
Medical examiners can classify an infant sleep death as “SUID” or “SIDS”.
A baby’s sleep death is a “SUID” when his or her cause of death is unknown before a complete investigation. Often a complete investigation will determine a cause of death.
A baby’s sleep death is called “SIDS” if no cause of death is found after a complete investigation including: (1) a case investigation, (2) an autopsy, (3) a death scene investigation, and (4) a review of clinical history. For more information on SIDS, click
What are some causes of infant sleep-related death?
Some common causes of infant sleep death are:
- Asphyxiation (choking - Example: a pacifier cord getting wrapped around a sleeping baby’s neck)
- Suffocation (smother – Example: a baby placed in a sleep surface with bumpers unable to turn his head away from the bedding to breath)
- Entrapment (trapped – Example: a baby pushed between the mattress and a wall while bed-sharing becomes unable to breath)
Can infant sleep-related death be prevented?
Biological and environmental factors can increase the risk of infant sleep death. Some infant sleep-related deaths can be prevented by reducing several of these factors. A complete list of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Safe to Sleep Campaign and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) best practices to reduce sleep death risk can be found
Three of these best practices include:
- Always put baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night.
- Put baby to sleep in a separate sleep area in the same room where you sleep.
If you bring baby into your bed to breastfeed, make sure to put him or her back into a separate safe sleep (Example: safety-approved crib, bassinet, or portable play area).
- Use a firm sleep surface, covered by a fitted sheet, to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of death. Remove all loose bedding, soft objects and toys.
Infant caregivers should follow all of the risk reduction best practices suggested by the Safe to Sleep Campaign and AAP.
What is the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) doing to prevent infant sleep-related death?
The DPH SIDS Injury Prevention Program is doing the following to prevent infant sleep-related death:
- Providing safe sleep training to local and district health departments
- Collaborating with federal, state, and community-based infant safe sleep partners to provide education to community members and community organizations
- Providing opportunities for health department and community organizations in specific counties to offer safe sleep surfaces to community members through the Georgia Crib Match Program (GCMP). For more information on the GCMP, please click
First Lady Sandra Deal, chairwoman of the Georgia Children's Cabinet, has launched the Safe Sleep Campaign. This effort is joined by the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who are also members of the Children's Cabinet. Please click
here for a downloadable Safe Sleep campaign poster.
Safe Sleep and Infants with Special Medical Needs
Infants with special medical needs may require adjustments to the safe sleep best practices due to health condition and/or medical equipment. Parents should
ALWAYS consult with their baby’s clinician on the best sleep practice for their special infant’s health. Parents should also follow their child’s clinician’s advice for safely traveling with their special medical needs infant, as babies often fall asleep during transport.
Where can I get more information on infant safe sleep and infant sleep-related death?
For more information on infant sleep-related death, please click