Racial Divide for Infant Sleep-Related Deaths

There’s a new study out that’s showing a startling divide among racial groups when it comes to sleep-related deaths.   According to the Chicago Tribune, Researchers at Children’s Memorial Research Center in Cook County, Illinois (near Chicago) found that African-American babies are 12 times more likely to die in their sleep than white infants.  These sleep-related deaths include unintentional suffocation, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and other deaths where the child died in his or her sleep, but the cause was undetermined…

When researchers took a closer look at the undetermined deaths, they found an even more striking racial disparity: African-American infants were almost 17 times more likely to die of unknown sleep-related causes. In most cases, the infants had been sleeping in unsafe situations that put them at risk, such as being placed in a bed with a parent.

The study found that 57 percent of the undetermined deaths occurred while the infant was sharing a bed with an adult. Twenty-one percent occurred when the baby was sleeping alone but not in a crib or bassinet — often on a couch or a pillow on the floor. About 8 percent were found in a crib or bassinet and had been put to sleep on their backs, as experts recommend.

Such deaths are relatively rare, but many could be prevented if all infants had a safe place to sleep and parents were educated about safe sleep practices, said Jenifer Cartland, director of the research center’s Child Health Data Lab, which analyzed the data.

Sleep-related deaths in the United States have been on the rise for the last decade, despite a reduction in the number of deaths attributed directly to SIDS.