Perhaps the most staggering thing we learned since losing our baby Will in 2009 is just how many others are impacted by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and related Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID).
Below are statistics and sources we have found useful in trying to understand SIDS. In spite of the problems inherent with some SIDS statistics, the data is definitely insightful.
Finally, we want to reiterate the focus of our non-profit is to raise awareness and money for research, and to help local families. We are neither SIDS experts, nor statisticians. The information below is believed accurate and well sourced, but please let us know if we made any errors (email: email@example.com). At the bottom of this page are links to our footnotes and articles for those who would like further reading.
There were 2,226 SIDS deaths in the US in 2009.1 This represents only deaths classified as SIDS. It does not include infants who died from potentially related Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). If this SUID data were included the total number of deaths would presently exceed 4,500 children per year, including those who died from SIDS.2 The rule of thumb is to simply double the SIDS data.
Death Rate Recently Unchanged
After falling precipitously during the 1990’s, the SIDS death rate has remained largely unchanged for the past decade. The federally funded SIDS Resource Center at Georgetown University (now a segment of the Maternal and Child Health Library) compiled a good chart which shows CDC data dating back to 1983. We graphed the chart below to better illustrate what has happened with the SIDS death rate over the last 30 years.
At first glance, it is clear the death rate from SIDS has come down significantly. What is not clear is that even at the current level of 2,226 SIDS still ranks as the number one cause of death for infants age 1 month to 1 year, and the third leading cause of infant mortality overall.3
The death rate has come down for two reasons. One, SIDS was only loosely defined during the early years. Experts believe many of the deaths previously classified as SIDS would now be attributed to other forms of SUID.4 This is often referred to as the diagnostic shift. The second major reason why the death rate has come down is due to what is known as the Back to Sleep Campaign. Essentially, researchers found SIDS deaths were correlated with infants sleeping on their tummies. They launched a hugely successful public relations campaign that got people to put their babies to sleep on their backs, and the SIDS death rate dropped tremendously. More information about the diagnostic shift and the Back to Sleep Campaign can be found on our About SIDS page.
90% of SIDS deaths occur within the child’s first six months of life. The graph below (Figure 2.2) is from The American Academy of Pediatrics, and shows the distribution of SIDS deaths in the United States according to age at death for children who died from SIDS between 2004 and 2006.5
The graph clearly shows the occurrence of SIDS is rare during the first month of life, increasing to a peak between 2 and 3 months of age, and then decreasing dramatically after the first six months of life.6 The leading medical theory on SIDS is called the Triple Risk Model, which states some babies have a developmental delay in the part of their brain which controls breathing and arousal from sleep. The data suggests this vulnerability is typically only present during the first six months of life. More information about the Triple Risk Model can be found on our Leading Medial Theories page.
The children dying from SIDS represents a big number. But it can be hard to see the scope of the problem until it is put in perspective. For example, as the chart below shows, in spite of the reduction in SIDS death rates, we are still losing more than 6 children per day. This equates to 1 child dying every 4 hours.
|Years||2009||2000 to 2009||1990 to 1999||1983 to 1989|
|SIDS deaths per year||2,226||2,305||3,931||5,355|
|This equates to:|
|Children dying per week||42.8||44.3||75.6||103.0|
|Children dying per day||6.1||6.3||10.8||14.7|
|One child dying every||3.9 hours||3.8 hours||2.2 hours||1.6 hours|
Think about that. From the time most of us wake up and get to work in the morning, a child has died. By the time we have lunch, another child has died. We lose another child before we leave work, another by bedtime, and two more during the night. This happens every day.
1 Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_03.pdf (see page 12)
Corroborating Source: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_07.pdf (see page 76)
2 Source: http://www.cdc.gov/sids/
3 Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3268262/
4 Source: http://www.cdc.gov/sids/SUIDAbout.htm
5 (Chart) Source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/5/e1341.full.html
6 Source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/5/1245.full