A new study out of the University of California — San Diego has found a disturbing pattern in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome cases. The pattern suggests a link between so-called “crib death” and alcohol use among parents of babies.
Analyzing 129,090 SIDS deaths from 1973 to 2006, UCSD sociologist David Phillips found a 33 percent surge on New Year’s Day. This spike in SIDS deaths is beyond the usual rise in SIDS deaths during the winter months and cannot be attributed to weather, blankets and indoor heating.
Rather, Phillips and his team of researchers believe there’s a connection between a SIDS spike and alcohol consumption among the caretakers. They offer three pieces of evidence connecting the two:
1. Alcohol consumption also rises in the hours before New Year’s Day. Weekends also see a rise in alcohol consumption and SIDS — though neither as dramatically as on New Year’s Eve/Day. They say SIDS death rate is more than two times as like for the baby of a mother who drinks.
2. SIDS also increases just after April 20, a day the press release (reprinted here) about the new research describes as: 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.
3. Finally, it can’t be just the late-to-bed effects, researchers claim, because SIDS does not increase during the daylight saving time change, when many parents sleep later.
The authors can’t say for certain that alcohol was involved in a significant number of the New Year’s SIDS cases, since death information only lists SIDS and no other factors, and are only pointing out a concerning connection. They speculate that alcohol may be impairing parental judgment, such as putting the baby to sleep on her back.
Frankly, I’m impressed with any parent of a newborn who’s got the wherewithal to get out and have a good time on New Year’s and this spike, while not established as caused by alcohol, is something to consider. The report on this research, which has been published in most recent issue of the journal Addiction, is a reminder to drink responsibly when you’re the one putting the baby to bed.
Photo: National Injury Board