Trends in postneonatal aspiration deaths and reclassification of sudden infant death syndrome: impact of the "Back to Sleep" program

Pediatrics. 2002 Apr;109(4):661-5. doi: 10.1542/peds.109.4.661.


Objective: The introduction of the "Back to Sleep" campaign for the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) brought with it concern that there might be an increase in the incidence of aspiration-related deaths. The objective of this analysis was to describe the trends in postneonatal mortality and proportionate mortality ratios for the United States for the years 1991 to 1996 for aspiration-related deaths and other causes to which a SIDS death could conceivably be reclassified.

Methods: Linked birth and infant death vital statistic files for the United States were used for the years 1991, 1995, and 1996. US Vital Statistic Mortality files for the years 1992, 1993, and 1994 were used because of the absence of linked files for those years.

Results: The overall postneonatal mortality rate between 1991 and 1996 declined 21.9%, whereas the SIDS rate declined 38.9%. The proportion of the postneonatal mortality (PNPMR) contributed by SIDS declined from 37.1% in 1991 to 28.8% in 1996. There was no significant increase in the PNPMR for aspiration, asphyxia, or respiratory failure. There was, however, a significant increase in the PNPMR for suffocation in bed or cradle from 0.9 to 1.3.

Conclusions: These data show no evidence of an increased risk of death from aspiration as a result of the "Back to Sleep" program. Although there has been an increase in the proportion of postneonatal mortality attributable to suffocation, this represents a very small proportion of postneonatal mortality and thus potentially a very small number of SIDS deaths reclassified as suffocation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / classification
  • Asphyxia Neonatorum / mortality
  • Black People
  • Cause of Death / trends*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / classification
  • Pneumonia, Aspiration / mortality*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Sudden Infant Death / classification*
  • Sudden Infant Death / epidemiology
  • Survival Rate
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People