October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) urges parents to maintain a safe sleep environment for children. Oklahoma has some cause to celebrate, as new data shows that the infant mortality rate in Oklahoma has dropped nearly 8% from 7.7 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2017 to 7.1 in 2018.
In Oklahoma, SIDS remains one of the top three causes of infant mortality. It ranks the third highest behind disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, and the top cause being birth defects. This is slightly higher than the most recent national data from the CDC, which shows SIDS to be the fourth leading cause of infant death in the United States.
James Craig is a public health social work coordinator at OSDH with 12 years of experience in working with Oklahoma families.
“I have never met a parent who didn’t want the best for their children, only parents who didn’t have the best information or resources they might need,” said Craig. “In my role as infant safe sleep coordinator for the OSDH, I do my best to get the most accurate and up-to-date information out to parents so they can make the best decisions for their children.”
The OSDH encourages all parents to maintain a safe sleep environment for their children, and promotes the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on safe sleep.
The most important steps for parents to remember include:
• Put your baby on their back to sleep every time for bedtime and naps.
• Use a firm sleep surface.
• Avoid tobacco exposure during pregnancy and after birth.
• Place the infant in their sleep space alone with no loose bedding or other objects.
• Breastfeed when possible (this has been shown to reduce risk of SIDS by 50%).
• Practice room-sharing with an infant but not bed-sharing.
SIDS is often used as a general term referring to all unexplained infant deaths. However, it has a very specific definition when identified as the cause of infant death. SIDS is defined as the sudden death of an infant younger than one year of age that remains unexplained after a complete investigation that includes an autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the infant’s and families’ clinical histories..SIDS is part of the broader category of sudden unexplained infant death, which also encompasses the categories of undetermined infant deaths, and accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. Undetermined infant deaths have no known cause, but are often preventable due to the presence of evidence of an unsafe sleep environment.