Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Affects Natives Most, Study Finds

Courtesy Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune / Experts encourage parents to remove bumpers and toys from a baby's crib and to give them a pacifier as a means to prevent sudden infant death syndrome.

Alcohol consumption while pregnant and second-hand smoke can contribute to the sudden death of a baby, experts say.

Native American babies are far more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDs, than Hispanics, whites, and Asians, a new study finds. African-American babies are also at significant risk.

While the number of overall deaths from SIDS decreased between 1995 and 2013, the number of Native and black babies suddenly dying remained “consistently high,” the report says. In 2013, more than 175 out of every 100,000 Native and black babies were victims of SIDS (compare that to 84 white, 49 Hispanic, and 28 Asian babies). In 1995, there were more than 235 cases of SIDS per 100,000 births in Indian country, according to the study.

Experts attribute the decrease in deaths to a 1994 “Back-to-Sleep” campaign that encouraged parents to make sure babies slept on their backs. Although the effort was allegedly successful, the study concludes more educational campaigns need to be made to reduce SIDS, especially in minority communities.

“There are still significant gaps and disparities between races and ethnicities,” Lori Feldman-Winter, a professor of pediatrics at Cooper University Health Care in Camden, New Jersey, told NPR.

To reduce the danger of SIDS, researchers encourage parents to remove baby bumpers and toys from cribs, to refrain from sleeping with their baby to prevent suffocation, give the baby a pacifier, and never put babies to sleep face-down. Researchers conclude that genetics and socio-economic factors may also contribute to SIDS. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that exposure to second-hand smoke can lead to the sudden death of an infant. A 2010 study found that alcohol consumption while pregnant can also put a baby at significant risk. There are no symptoms prior to SIDS, experts say, since deaths typically occurs during sleep.

The study was the first of its kind, following the trend of sudden infant deaths by race, according to the report.

Culture Editor Simon Moya-Smith contributed to this report.

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