This year, I hope to bring attention to parental exhaustion, a lesser-known factor in sudden unexpected infant sleep death (SUID). A shocking 3,700 infants die annually of SUID, a categorization that includes SIDS, suffocation, and strangulation deaths. The vast majority—70 percent—occur in adult beds, on sofas, and in armchairs. When and why do parents turn to these risky locations for sleep? When they’re bone tired from having been up all night with a fussy baby.
The SIDS rate fell between 1994 and 2000 (credited to the "Back to Sleep" campaign), but around the same time, other causes, namely accidental suffocation and unknown causes began to rise, resulting in no net reduction in SUID over the past 20 years.
Back sleeping is key to preventing sleep fatalities, but the cruel reality is that most babies don’t sleep well on their backs. So, to make progress in the fight against sleep deaths, we need to give parents the tools to improve the slumber of back-sleeping babies, so they are not tempted to sleep with them in an adult bed or another risky location.