Sudden infant death syndrome spikes on New Year's Day

December 15, 2010

Not a happy holiday thought, but an important one: The number of babies who die of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, surges by 33 percent on New Year's Day. The suspected reason? Alcohol consumption by caretakers the night before.

Led by sociologist David Phillips of the University of California, San Diego, the study documenting the dramatic rise in SIDS deaths on New Year's is published in the journal Addiction. The spike, write Phillips and his coauthors, is beyond the normal winter increase in SIDS.

The study examined 129,090 SIDS cases from 1973 to 2006 using three multiyear nationwide datasets: computerized death certificates, the linked birth and infant death dataset, and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The authors say it is the first, large-scale U.S. study to explore possible connections between alcohol and SIDS.

Though SIDS has decreased significantly since the 1994 implementation of the "Back to Sleep" campaign, which urges caregivers to put infants on their backs to sleep, among other "safe-sleep" recommendations, SIDS continues to be the leading cause of death for children aged 1 month to 1 year. Also known as "crib death" and "cot death" because it strikes seemingly healthy babies in their sleep, SIDS is usually ruled the cause of death only when other causes are ruled out.

Phillips and his coauthors found three types of evidence linking SIDS to alcohol. In addition to rising, just like , more on New Year's than at any other day of the year, SIDS and alcohol consumption also increase every weekend. And the SIDS death rate is abnormally high for children of alcohol-consuming mothers: Babies of mothers who drink are more than twice as likely to die of SIDS.

The study also found a rise in SIDS just after April 20 (or 4/20), a counterculture celebration of cannabis, and after July 4, which is also known as an inebriated time, though the rise on neither of these dates is as dramatic as on New Year's.

To see if parental sleeping-in might be at fault – rather than intoxication itself – the authors also checked to see what happens during the autumn shift to daylight savings, when many sleep later because an hour has been added to the day. There was no rise in SIDS, Phillips said.

The authors acknowledge important limitations to the current study. The large datasets contain very little information per case, Phillips said, so "we could not specify the detailed mechanisms and cannot determine whether alcohol is an independent risk factor for SIDS, a risk factor only in conjunction with other factors or a proxy for risks associated with occasions when consumption increases."

The study doesn't, and can't, point definitively to alcohol consumption as a cause of SIDS, but the connections are concerning, Phillips said. He worries that parents may not be as good at parenting – following the "Back to Sleep" recommendations, for example – when they've been drinking.

"We know that when people are under the influence of alcohol their judgments are impaired and they are not as good at performing tasks. This would include caretaking," Phillips said.

Phillips urges further studies that might shed additional light on the relationship between alcohol and SIDS. Nonetheless, he said, it is not unreasonable even now to suggest that SIDS investigations inquire about the recent alcohol consumption of the infant's caretakers and that pediatricians advise new parents that alcohol impairs their abilities and may endanger their children.

"The 'Back to Sleep' campaign was largely successful," the authors write. "A similar campaign might now be implemented: There should be increased efforts to inform caretakers that alcohol impairs parental capacity and might be a risk factor for SIDS."

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7 comments

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geokstr
1 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2010
I put this right up there with the fake incidence of violence against women on Super Bowl Sunday. Another politically motivated "science" project to soak up free taxpayer dollars.
Thrasymachus
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 16, 2010
You really have a problem with using taxpayer dollars to figure out why babies die for no apparent reason when they're supposed to be sleeping? I mean, I know conservatives are heartless, but that's like, cartoon-level evil.
geokstr
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2010
In case you haven't noticed, there are NO taxpayer dollars LEFT. The entire grand socialist experiment is OVER, with Europe and the US heading for a financial cliff at breakneck speed. You want to see lots of babies die? Once the governmental structure collapses all around us, everybody will be so poor that adults AND babies will die en masse. (This is of course a feature, not a bug, for the left, who consider the earth overrun by the human parasite anyway.)

Except of course for the nomenklatura, who will continue to live their lives of relative luxury, sniffing at the plight of the peasants. And all the leftists assume they will be in that politically connected crowd, but in truth, there won't be enough left to support but a tiny fraction of the population at that level.

Then they'll start eating each other. We've already eaten most of the Golden Goose that gave us prosperity (capitalism). Soylent Green here we come.
Skultch
3 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2010
Ha! I used to think the treehuggers were the most annoying ranters around. You can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting a right-winger on an irrelevant crusade.

Wow, dude. Pick a different topic to digress from.
geokstr
1 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2010
Ha! I used to think the treehuggers were the most annoying ranters around. You can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting a right-winger on an irrelevant crusade.

Wow, dude. Pick a different topic to digress from.

I'll pick whatever topic I choose. Don't like it? Tough.

Ridicule is what the left deserves.
Skultch
3 / 5 (2) Dec 21, 2010
Ha! I used to think the treehuggers were the most annoying ranters around. You can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting a right-winger on an irrelevant crusade.

Wow, dude. Pick a different topic to digress from.

I'll pick whatever topic I choose. Don't like it? Tough.

Ridicule is what the left deserves.


The left clearly enjoys life more than you. Chew on that!
Skeptic_Heretic
3 / 5 (2) Dec 21, 2010
Ridicule is what the left deserves.

Ridicule is what you deserve for your stance on this particular topic. That seriously is "cartoon evil".

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