Mechanical suffocation is, by far, the leading cause of death for children under age 1. Fatal injuries in the first year of life numbered 980 in 2020, according to Injury Facts. Mechanical suffocation constituted the majority (nearly 85%) of all injury-related mortality cases for infants. Infants who die from mechanical suffocation lose the ability to breathe due to strangulation, or smothering by bed clothes, plastic bags or similar materials.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to a definition on the Mayo Clinic website, is the "unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old." The cause is still unknown, but it does not appear to be suffocation, according to the SIDS Network. In post-mortem investigations, evidence of suffocation is not found in most babies who die of SIDS.SIDS may be associated with the brain's ability to control breathing and arousal from sleep, low birth weight or respiratory infection.
While we don't know with certainty what causes SIDS, items in a baby's crib – and his or her sleeping position – can increase risk for impaired breathing and suffocation. Babies can get their faces trapped between a bed mattress and wall or bed frame, smothered by a pillow or blanket, or strangled by a drapery or pacifier cord.
SafeKids.org offers the following sleep safety tips for infants: