A study has found that the number of babies who die of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) increases by 33 percent on New Year’s Day, and the suspected reason is alcohol consumption by parents and caretakers the night before. Sociologist David Phillips of the University of California, San Diego, leader of the study, said that the increase is beyond the normal winter increase in SIDS.
For the study, the researchers looked at 129,090 SIDS cases from 1972 to 2006. The researchers say this is the first large-scale United States study to look at the possible connection between alcohol and SIDS.
Although SIDS had significantly decreased since the “Back to Sleep” campaign was implemented in 1994, which underscores the importance of placing infants on their backs to sleep rather than on their stomachs, SIDS is still the leading cause of death in children ages one month to one year.
The researchers found three types of evidence that linked SIDS to alcohol. In addition to increasing more on New Year’s Day (as alcohol consumption does), both SIDS and alcohol consumption also increase every weekend. The SIDS rate is also abnormally high for children of alcohol-consuming mothers. Children of mothers who drink alcohol are more than twice as likely to die of SIDS.
The study also found that SIDS increased just after April 20th, when many people celebrate by smoking marijuana, and after the Fourth of July, when many people drink alcohol at barbecues and other gatherings. However, neither of these increases were as dramatic as those on New Year’s Day.
The researchers also looked to see what happens during the shift to daylight savings time, to see if parents sleep in had an effect (many people sleep later because an hour has been added to the day). However, they found no rise in SIDS during this time.
The study can’t definitely say that alcohol consumption is a cause of SIDS, but the associations are worrying. Phillips said he believes parents may not be as good at parenting (such as following the “Back to Sleep” recommendations) when they’ve been drinking. When alcohol is involved, people’s judgments are impaired and they are not as good at performing tasks, including caretaking.
Phillips recommends that further studies be conducted to examine the association between alcohol and SIDS, and that pediatricians should advise new parents that drinking alcohol impairs their abilities to provide the proper care for their children.
Source: Science Daily, SIDS Spikes on New Year’s Day, December 15, 2010