Types of Objects in the Sleep Environment Associated With Infant Suffocation and Strangulation



      To investigate the circumstances of death and types and roles of objects present in the sleep environment at the time of death for infants who died from suffocation or strangulation during sleep.


      This study analyzed 1736 reported incidents of accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed (ASSB) of infants younger than 1 year of age. These fatalities occurred from 2000 through 2012 and were reported to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.


      The mean age of ASSB death was 3.76 months (SD, 2.51). Infants younger than 5 months accounted for 67.3% (1168 of 1736) of all reported fatalities and 58.3% (1009 of 1731) were male. Deceased infants were often found in a crib or bassinet (30.6%; 383 of 1253) or in the prone orientation (84.9%; 595 of 701). The most common objects associated with infant ASSB were pillows (24.5%; 425 of 1736), mattresses (21.0%; 364 of 1736), blankets (13.1%; 228 of 1736), and walls (11.5%; 199 of 1736). Wedged (43.3%; 616 of 1424) or positioned on top of an object (25.9%; 369 of 1424) were the most common positions associated with death. Infants were often found wedged between a mattress and wall (30.2%; 181 of 599) or oriented face-down or prone on top of a pillow (52.2%; 187 of 358). Sleep surface sharing was associated with 6.5% (112 of 1736) of ASSB deaths.


      Pillows and blankets are objects in sleep environments frequently associated with unintentional suffocation and strangulation of infants. Increased efforts should be made to remove these and other objects from sleep environments of infants.


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