April 23 (UPI) -- More suffocation deaths of infants occur each year due to soft bedding than any other risk factor, new findings show.
Roughly 69 percent of incidents where babies died of suffocation included a blanket, pillow or adult mattress, according to a study published Monday in Pediatrics.
"Educating caregivers about safe sleep recommendations can prevent future deaths," Alexa Erck Lambert, a researcher at DB Consulting Group and study lead author, said in a video release. "These include placing the baby to sleep on his or her back, for all sleep times; using a firm sleep surface, such as a crib; keeping soft bedding out of the sleep area; and having the baby in the parent's room, not the parent's bed."
Researchers analyzed data collected from 2011 to 2014 as part of the Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Case Registry, finding that babies died at a median age of 3-months-old and nearly all were laying on their stomach or side during the accident. Blankets most commonly caused the suffocation.
Soft-bedding deaths, which cause about 69 percent of the deaths, occur most often in adult beds. Overlay deaths, or those caused by a person rolling onto a baby, occur about 19 percent of the time, and wedging is to blame for 12 percent of deaths.
Among overlay deaths, 71 percent occur in an adult bed. Of these, 14 percent occurred during breastfeeding, while about a quarter were caused by alcohol or drugs.
In wedging deaths, most involved babies with a median age of 6-months-old and 73 percent of the deaths were in adult beds. In nearly half of those incidents, the infant was stuck between a mattress and a wall.
In 2018, about 61 percent of mothers reported sharing beds with their babies in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, and nearly 40 percent reported using soft bedding.
"Unfortunately, too many babies in this country are lost to sleep-related deaths that might be prevented," Brenda Fitzgerald, CDC director at the time, said in a news release.
Overall, about 3,500 babies in the United States die from sleep-related causes, which include accidental suffocation.
"Improving our understanding of the characteristics and risk factors of suffocation deaths by mechanism can aid in the development of more targeted strategies to prevent these injury deaths," Lambert said.