Over twenty years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) launched its “Back to Sleep” campaign1 after new research found infants sleeping in prone position (belly down) were at increased risk for dying suddenly and unexplainably in their sleep. The impact of the campaign was favorably dramatic, with the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, declining more than 50 percent since.
For pediatricians, these results are satisfying, but not completely fulfilling, as we still bear witness to 50 deaths per 100,000 live births to this tragic problem, the third-leading cause of infant mortality.2 In addition, the decrease in SIDS has remained rather stagnant in the last 10 years. In response, the AAP continues to search for risk factors, or patterns, that appear significantly more common in cases of SIDS.3 These studies have demonstrated that infants sleep safest on their backs, by themselves (no bed-sharing), on a firm surface, and without soft bedding objects such as pillows, quilts, ‘bumpers,’ or stuffed animals. In addition, maternal smoking has been shown to be a very consistent risk factor in cases of SIDS, whereas infants that are breastfed are at less risk.
Recently, the AAP sponsored journal Pediatrics published an article supporting its previous recommendations for safe sleep practice. Here, researchers examined the known hazard of infant sleeping on sofas, which make up close to 13 percent of all sleep-related infant deaths, 4 searching for clues as to why infants sleeping on couches makes for such a dangerous sleep environment. Compared to other sleep related deaths, these cases shared higher percentages of infants sleeping with their care-givers, sleeping in prone position, and sleeping with soft objects. They conclude that many of the previously recognized dangerous sleep habits are not only present, but in fact more common, in SIDS cases from sofa sleeping. This conclusion reaffirmed their previous recommendations for safe sleep practice.
Learn more about how parents can promote safe sleep habits through this helpful resource from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
1) Kattwinkel J, Brooks J, Myerberg D. American Academy of Pediatrics AAP Task Force on Infant Positioning and SIDS: positioning and SIDS.[Erratum in: Pediatrics 1992 Aug; 90(2 Pt 1):264] Pediatrics. 1992;89(6 pt 1):1120–1126
2) MacDorman MF, Hoyert DL, Mathews TJ. Recent declines in infant mortality in the United States, 2005–2011. NCHS data brief Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2013.
3) Moon RY. Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: expansion of recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2011;128(5).
4) Rechtman, LR, Colvin DC. Sofas and Infant Mortality. Pediatrics. 2014; 134(5).