Devices to Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Cause Sudden Infant Death

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Sept. 29 2010 3:19 PM

Devices to Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Cause Sudden Infant Death

Twelve children have suffocated to death in the past 13 years because of devices meant to protect them from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the New York Times reports:

Most of the infants suffocated after rolling from a side position to a stomach position. In addition to the reported deaths, the government has received dozens of reports of infants who were placed on their backs or sides in sleep positioners, only to be found later in potentially hazardous positions within or next to the sleep positioners. 

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SIDS remains as confounding as it is terrifying . Earlier this month, researchers reported that the sudden deaths sometimes coincide with consumption of alcohol by the people caring for an infant. Or they appeared to, given the tiny sample size involved. As usual with SIDS, there's an implication of blame, rather than outright blame:

We know that people are not as good at performing tasks when under the influence of alcohol," [lead researcher David Phillips of Cal-San Diego] said. "This includes caretaking."

Why so vague? Because nobody really knows what causes SIDS. They only know that certain rituals—keeping an uncluttered crib, making babies sleep on their backs—seem to reduce the incidence. It's not clear what causes it, but you have to try to prevent it anyway. Unless you've been using one of those sleep positioners, in which case you have to stop right now.

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.

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