How to explain sudden infant deaths? Researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have looked into this question.

In a study they published on April 27 in the journal Pediatrics, they point the finger at the “soft” elements of the environment of babies: stuffed animals, cushions, blankets but also bedspreads are thus the main culprits of sudden deaths from suffocation of infants.

75% of suffocation related to soft objects

For this study, the researchers analyzed nearly 12,000 cases of sudden infant death syndrome that occurred in the United States between 2011 and 2017. First observation: 31% of sudden deaths are “explainable“by suffocation of the infant.

To what are these suffocations due? In 75% of cases to a “soft” element of bedding, capable of obstructing the baby’s airways: cushions, soft toys, comforters, pillows, blankets and bed bumpers.

These cases represent only a small share of sudden infant deaths, but they are almost always preventable, experts note.

“Dangerous sleep factors”

The majority of sudden infant deaths remain unexplained. But in 41% of cases, they seem to be linked to “dangerous sleep factors“. Here again, it may be a matter of bedding elements but also a bad sleeping position of the baby.

In fact, the baby should not be lying on his side or on his stomach, but only on his back. This position helps him both to regulate his temperature and to breathe well. His face remains uncovered, so there is no risk of burying his head in the mattress.

Sleeping bag, firm mattress, sleek bed

Other advice should be followed to limit the risk of sudden death. The baby must be lying on his back, in a sleeping bag, on a firm mattress, without play or decoration in the bed: a safe bed is a clean bed.

Finally, the mattress must be well adapted to the dimensions of the bed, because the baby can get stuck between the walls and an unsuitable mattress.

Other possible causes

Despite all these precautions, sudden deaths can occur without apparent cause. They can then be linked to genetic abnormalities, neurological disorders or heart disease. These are all factors that the study’s authors promise to study in more depth in future work.