Researchers Believe Swaddling is Increasing SIDS?

Is it correct to say swaddling is increasing SIDS or is it asphyxiation?


According to a recent report in Pediatrics May 2016 issue, and as reported in USA Today, researchers now believe that swaddling is increasing the risk of SIDS-related deaths.  But are these deaths, in fact, positional asphyxiation and/or suffocation?

The AAP is recommending caregivers to place babies on their backs to sleep. However, the ‘back sleeping’ rule is bringing about the popularity of swaddling infants.  Infants who are on their backs are more apt to startle causing an infant to spontaneously arouse during sleep.  Swaddling provides fewer spontaneous arousals during quiet sleep, reduces physiologic and behavioral distress among premature infants, and improves calming and sleep for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome according to research in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Based on a retrospective analysis,  swaddling infants is resulting in more infant deaths.  The researchers are finding the majority of these infants are face down.  Researchers are now questioning if swaddling is safe.  Some are calling these deaths SIDS, while others believe it is asphyxiation.

In a report by The Atlantic, they report on the confusion often faced between SIDS and asphyxiation. Unlike most causes of death, autopsies do not clearly define the death caused by or related to SIDS.  Even suffocation, unfortunately, does not have solid biological markers. There’s huge variation in what takes place during the autopsy and the death-scene investigation. Because the determination of SIDS and SUID are so dependent on those investigations, there is a catch-22 here according to an official from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) [The Atlantic, June 2, 2016].

Death scene investigations are not standardized in every state

Seven years ago, public health officials at the CDC launched a case registry to log SUID deaths. The idea was to track deaths at the state level, monitor trends, and to gather data that could improve death-scene investigations and might ultimately help prevent future deaths. Since 2009, the registry has expanded from five states to 18.

According to an epidemiologist at the CDC that manages the database, there are stark differences in how various states, and even separate jurisdictions within that same state, handle death-scene investigations and classifications.  There is not a standard state-by-state definition.  Some infant deaths that are eventually explained—a baby who suffocates because of loose bedding in her crib, for example, or when an adult rolls onto her in a shared bed—are sometimes classified as SIDS deaths anyway, out of sensitivity to traumatized parents grieving the death of their newborn. We definitely know that coroners and medical examiners have tendencies to certify deaths differently.

A crib mattress that could eliminate many asphyxiation deaths

One company whose three founders – a pediatrician, a safety engineer and a designer – all experienced the death of a loved one who had rolled over on a fiber filled crib mattress believes that SIDS is over diagnosed, and infant asphyxiation deaths can be prevented.  This team has created the first crib mattress that has no type of fill making it completely breathe-through  The mattress allows an infant who is lying face straight down to breathe normally through her mattress.  Infant monitors detect carbon dioxide accumulation. The Secure Beginnings infant mattress prevents carbon dioxide from accumulating.  Recent testing conducted by both International SIDS/SUID experts and the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s accredited research scientists, prove air permeable crib mattresses and sleep surfaces are safer than crib mattresses containing fiberfill to prevent carbon dioxide rebreathing and airway obstruction.

Secure Beginnings is working to promote stricter infant mattress regulations. Currently, the United States only requires infant mattresses meet the same flammability standards as regular adult mattresses.

For more information on Secure Beginning’s safety tests and their breathable crib mattresses, visit

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