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October 2007

NC Celebrates SIDS Awareness Month

October is National Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month.  In honor of this event, we are taking a look at SIDS in our state, the use of the "back to sleep" position and ways you can help reduce the risks of SIDS.

NC SIDS Overview

  • SIDS is the third leading cause of infant death across North Carolina and the leading cause of death for babies 1-12 months of age
  • 483 North Carolina babies died of SIDS from 2002-2006

Who is dying from SIDS?

A safe sleep report by the NC Child Fatality Prevention Team using information from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner offers an overview of which babies in our state are more at risk for SIDS:

  • The male SIDS rate was greater than the female rate, .97 deaths per 1,000 live births versus .68 from 2001-2005
  • 28% of babies that died of SIDS were born prematurely
  • The SIDS rate for African American babies is more than twice the rate for Caucasian babies:
    • Black  1.4 deaths per 1,000 live births
    • White 0.6
    • Hispanic 0.39

Use of the "back to sleep" position in 2005

Babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to die from SIDS than babies placed on their stomachs. A report about Infant Sleep Position by the 2005 N.C. Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) released this month offers a detailed look of who uses the back to sleep position.

Findings include that the back sleep position was most common among whites, Hispanics, mothers of older age, and mothers of higher education. The findings provide useful information on who still needs to be reached with the "back to sleep" message and where there may be barriers or resistance to this practice.

According to the report:

  • 68% of NC mothers placed their babies on their backs to sleep
  • Mothers who placed infants on back to sleep by race:
    • White, non-Hispanic - 74%
    • Hispanic - 68%
    • African American, non-Hispanic - 48%
  • Mothers' education and use of back to sleep position:
    • More than high school - 73%
    • High school - 67%
    • Less than high school - 59%
  • Use of the back to sleep position by source of prenatal care:
    • Medical Doctor or HMO - 69%
    • Hospital Clinic - 66%
    • Health Department Clinic - 64%

Promote infant safe sleep

The national Back to Sleep campaign has been credited with helping reduce SIDS deaths by more than 50% since its inception, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The campaign's goal is that no more than 10 percent of health infants will be placed on their stomachs to sleep. According to the PRAMS data, in 2005, 15.5% of mothers surveyed said they use the stomach sleep position for their infants.

To help achieve the Back to Sleep goal, the campaign needs the support of health professionals and educators across the state to disseminate the Back to Sleep message and educational materials to families.

Hospitals and community groups can order free infant safe sleep brochures and posters in bulk to distribute to patients and clients by ordering online at:

Individuals who want to receive infant safe sleep information can be referred to the NC Family Health Resource Line at 1-800-FOR-BABY (1-800-367-2229). The line offers baby care information and resources in Spanish and English.

Other Links:
For Families
Tips to Help Baby Sleep Safely

For Health Professionals and Community Groups
Baby's Easy Safe Sleep Training Kit

NC Safe Sleep Onesies at 5 Hospitals

Free safe sleep educational materials in our catalog

Every 9 Hours Posters (Minority Infant Mortality)


N.C. PRAMS Fact Sheet: Infant Sleep Position

N.C PRAMS Sleep Position Survey Results

NC State Child Fatality Prevention Team at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

Click here to order free educational materials.

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Last updated: October 2007

At a glance

Infant Sleep Position
NC 2005*

SIDS Deaths by Location in 2005

  • 54% were co-sleeping
  • 39% were not co-sleeping
  • 52% in bed
  • 22% in crib
  • 13% on couch
  • 4% in car seat

*latest data available

NC Child Fatality Prevention Team at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

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