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Babies are at higher risk of dying unexpectedly in their sleep if they live in certain states, according to a new study.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other unexpected deaths during sleep before age 1, such as from accidental suffocation, have declined dramatically since 1994. That's when health officials began urging parents to put babies to sleep on their backs.
But, according to new research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of the drop happened before the year 2000, and in recent years rates of sudden, unexpected infant death have plateaued and, in some states, have actually gone up.
If you live in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Washington or Wisconsin you can breathe a sigh of relief. All these regions have experienced a significant drop in sudden infant death rates since 2000. (In the District of Columbia for example, the rate dropped by almost 45 % between 2000 and 2015).
But Alaska, Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky and Louisiana are not doing so well. These states have the highest rates of sudden infant deaths in the country – more than 150 babies per 100,000 births – and these rates increased between 2000 and 2015, according to the study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The big question is, why? Unfortunately, the researchers aren't sure, but they do have some ideas. One reason could be that moms and babies have better access to healthcare in the states with lower sudden infant death rates, the authors wrote. Or it could be the better performing states have more programs in place to educate parents about safe sleep practices.
Another reason could be higher smoking rates in states with more sudden infant deaths, or rising problems with opioid addiction, which can put babies' health at risk, the authors suggested.
It will take more research to figure out the answer. In the meantime, you can help protect your baby by following safe sleep recommendations, including:
- Put your baby to sleep on her back
- Use a firm sleeping surface that's free of pillows, stuffed animals, and soft bedding
- leep in the same room – but not the same bed – as your baby
- Don't let your baby fall asleep on a couch, armchair, or any other plush surface
- Get regular prenatal care
- Don't smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs during pregnancy
- Keep your baby away from cigarette smoke
- Make sure your baby gets all recommended vaccinations
- Breastfeed if you can
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.