Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Defining the Problem
Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID): The death of an infant, less than 1 year of age that occurs suddenly and unexpectedly. After a case investigation, these deaths may be diagnosed as suffocation, asphyxia, entrapment, infection, ingestions, metabolic diseases, cardiac arrhythmias, trauma (accidental or non-accidental), or SIDS. In some cases where the evidence is not clear, or not enough information is available, the death is considered to be from an undetermined cause.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): The sudden death of an infant less than 1 year of age that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation is conducted, including a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and a review of the clinical history. SIDS is a type of SUID.
Safe to Sleep
CDC is collaborating with the National Institutes of Health in its new Safe to Sleep campaign, formerly known as the Back to Sleep Campaign. The Safe to Sleep Campaign has new outreach and education activities aimed at reducing infant death risk from SIDS and other sleep-related sudden unexpected infant deaths.
Accidental Suffocation and Strangulation in Bed (ASSB) also is a type of sleep-related SUID. This includes infant deaths related to airway obstruction (asphyxia) in a sleeping environment caused by—
- Suffocation by soft bedding—such as a pillow or waterbed mattress.
- Overlay—another person overlaying or rolling on top of or against the infant.
- Wedging or entrapment—wedging between two objects such as a mattress and wall, bed frame, or furniture.
- Strangulation—such as when an infant’s head and neck become caught between crib railings.
Understanding the Problem
There are about 4,200 sudden unexpected infant deaths per year in the United States—half are caused by SIDS.1 The most frequently reported causes are—
- SIDS—the leading cause of infant death from 1–12 months old.
- Cause is unknown or undetermined. A thorough investigation was not conducted or after the investigation the cause could not be determined or remained unknown.
- Sleep-related suffocation—the leading cause of infant injury death.
Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native infants are about two times more likely to die of SIDS and other sleep-related SUID than white infants.2
Improving Reporting of SIDS and Other Sleep-Related SUID
CDC is committed to monitoring and ultimately reducing SIDS and other sleep-related SUID. A better understanding of the circumstances and the cause of death can help reduce future deaths. Our efforts aim to standardize and improve data collected at infant death scenes and promote consistent classification and reporting of cause of death for SUID cases. We have updated the Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Investigation Reporting Form and conducted regional train-the-trainer academies that taught state teams how to conduct comprehensive infant death investigations. CDC is also working with the Navajo nation to improve infant death scene investigations.
In addition, CDC and our partners developed the SUID Case Registry. The purpose of the SUID Case Registry is to track information about SUID at the state and local levels that is more detailed than what is currently available. Instead of creating an entirely new system, the SUID Case Registry enhances the National Center for Child Death Review program and their Case Reporting System.
The SUID Case Registry’s objectives are to—
- Create state-level surveillance systems that build upon Child Death Review activities.
- Categorize SUID using standard definitions.
- Monitor the rates of different types of SUID and describe demographic and environmental factors.
- Determine similarities and differences among SUID.
- Save lives using evidence-based interventions.
The SUID Case Registry was designed to reduce SUID by using improved data to monitor trends, identify those at risk, and learn about effective prevention strategies.
Reducing the Risk
Health care providers and researchers don’t know the exact causes of SIDS, but they do know certain things you can do to help reduce the risk of SIDS other sleep-related SUID, such as—
- Always place a baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night, to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Use a firm sleep surface, covered by a fitted sheet, to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. See crib safety information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission for more information.
- Your baby should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair alone, with you, or with anyone else.
- Keep soft objects, toys, and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area.
- To reduce the risk of SIDS, do not smoke during pregnancy, and do not smoke or allow smoking around your baby.
- Breastfeed your baby to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Give your baby a dry pacifier that is not attached to a string for naps and at night to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Do not let your baby get too hot during sleep.
For more detailed information on reducing the risk of SIDS, visit the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Web site.
Creating a Safe Sleep Environment
Learn more about safe sleep environment and reducing the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths, by reading the NICHD publication What Does a Safe Sleep Environment Look Like? [PDF - 336KB] and visit their Safe to Sleep Public Education Campaign Web site.
In addition, CDC supports new recommendations issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). These new recommendations aim to reduce the risk of infant death from SIDS as well as death from known sleep-related causes. See the AAP Web site for more information.
If you or someone you know has experienced the loss of a baby, the following organizations may offer support:
- CDC. CDC WONDER Web site. http://wonder.cdc.gov/. Accessed September 17, 2012.
- Mathews TJ, MacDorman MF. Infant mortality statistics from the 2008 period linked birth/infant death data set. National Vital Statistics Reports.; 2012; 60(5).
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