Progress in Reducing SIDS


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We have made great progress in reducing SIDS. The largest decline in SIDS rates occurred between 1992 and 1999. Between 1994, when the Safe to Sleep® campaign (formerly known as the Back to Sleep campaign) started, and 1999, the overall SIDS rate in the United States dropped by more than 50%. During that same time period, the rates of back sleeping more than doubled:

  • In 19941, 4,073 babies died from SIDS, and in 19992, 2,643 babies died from SIDS.
  • In 19943, 1,235 African American babies died from SIDS. In 19994, 787 African American babies died from SIDS.
  • In 19955, 77 American Indian/Alaska Native babies died from SIDS. In 19996, 59 American Indian/Alaska Native babies died from SIDS.
  • In 1994, 27% of caregivers reported using the back sleep position for their infants; in 1999, 65% reported using the back sleep position.7
  • Between 2001 and 20098, the U.S. SIDS rate—although low, especially compared to rates in the early 1990s—remained relatively unchanged. The rate of back sleeping increased to about 74% for the same time period.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

While SIDS rates were declining and then stabilizing, rates of other sleep-related causes of infant death—such as “accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed (ASSB)”—were increasing. Several recent studies suggest that much of the decrease in SIDS rates since 1999 might be explained by changes in classification9 of cause of death. Some deaths that were once classified as SIDS were now being classified as other causes of death, such as accidental suffocation or other ill-defined and unspecified causes.

This shift in classification is one of several reasons the Safe to Sleep® collaborators expanded the focus of the campaign to include other sleep-related causes of infant death. By providing information about safe sleep environment and other health issues for infants, the Safe to Sleep® campaign aims to reduce the rates of SUID, including SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.

Even taking into account the change in classification, African American and American Indian/Alaska Native babies are at higher risk for SIDS based on their numbers within the U.S. population than are Hispanic American, Asian American, or white babies.10 The Safe to Sleep® campaign is working with and within these communities to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.

There is no certain way to prevent SIDS, but there are ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant death.


  1. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00043987.htm
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr50/nvsr50_04.pdf (PDF - 1.31 MB)
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00043987.htm
  4. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr50/nvsr50_04.pdf (PDF - 1.31 MB)
  5. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/mvsr/supp/mv46_06s2.pdf (PDF - 251 KB)
  6. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr50/nvsr50_04.pdf (PDF - 1.31 MB)
  7. http://slone-web2.bu.edu/ChimeNisp/Tables_in_PDF/NISP%201992-2010%20The%20usual%20sleep%20position.pdf External Web Site Policy (PDF - 19 KB)
  8. http://wonder.cdc.gov/lbd.html
  9. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/5/e1341.full External Web Site Policy
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2012).
Safe to Sleep® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Last Updated Date: 09/23/2013
Last Reviewed Date: 09/23/2013