African American infants are twice as likely to die from sleep-related causes as White infants are.
In 2015, infant mortality rate for African Americans was 11 per 1,000 live births compared to 5 per 1,000 live births for Hispanic and 7 per 1,000 live births for Whites. Prematurity and birth defects are the leading causes of death in infancy. However, accidental strangulation and suffocation in bed and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), collectively known as Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) is associated with over 50% infant mortality. More than 3,500 infants die each year between 1 month and 1 year of age in the United States.
Parents and childcare givers can adjust an infant’s sleep environment to prevent sleep-related deaths. Well-established evidence shows that putting an infant on their back for all sleep, having a separate sleep space for the infant such as a crib, bassinette or playpen, and removing all soft items and loose bedding from the sleep environment will prevent sleep-related deaths. Because African Americans are more likely to view bed sharing as culturally appropriate caring behavior and believe it promotes comfort, closeness, and protection for both children and parents, they should avoid smoking, alcohol and drug use, especially while caring for infants.
Using the harm reduction approach, for parents who bed share, in addition to avoiding drugs, alcohol and smoking, they should encourage use of a pacifier during sleep. In order to practice safe sleep, caregivers and their influencers should have the skills, resources and self-efficacy to perform the safe sleep behaviors. Click here for more information on safe sleep