While infant mortality rates are steadily declining, the number of babies that die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — or SIDS — is still depressingly high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were just about 1,500 deaths in the United States due to SIDS in 2015 alone. And though many states are seeing dramatic declines in infant mortality, some still are struggling to get SIDS cases under control. So, where is SIDS most common? There isn't really a clear answer, as the cause of SIDS is still relatively unknown, and not tied to one specific factor.
One thing is certain, though. According to research provided by the March of Dimes, Arkansas was the state with the highest rate of SIDS per 1,000 live births (141.1) in 2013. Geographically speaking, the second-highest rate of SIDS was in West Virginia (110.5 per 1,000 live births). And, in case you've forgotten your fifth grade geography lessons, Arkansas is a good two states away from West Virginia, distilling any theories that there might be something in the water. The state with the third-highest SIDS rates? Delaware.
Clearly, SIDS isn't a region-specific issue, but that doesn't mean there aren't some factors that play an important role.
For instance, according to the CDC, from 2010 to 2013, there were extremely large discrepancies between SIDS in different ethnicities. In those three years that were studied, American Indian/Alaska Native infants exhibited the highest rates of SIDS, at nearly 100 out of 100,000 live births. Non-Hispanic black infants were close behind, and Asian/Pacific Islander infants had the lowest rates.
Other things also play into SIDS rates, including sleep posture and location, as many parents are aware. In a report from The Washington Post, parents allowing their child of 3 months or younger to sleep with them in bed increased their odds of SIDS "by a factor of five":
Bed sharing presents a risk because, as Children’s National Medical Center pediatrician Linda Fu explains to new parents, the airflow around the baby may not be good enough, “and that is all it takes.”
So, while SIDS may be more prevalent among certain ethnic groups and states, there has yet to be any concrete evidence pointing to one specific cause, and certainly nothing tying a certain place to SIDS rates.
There are things that every parent can do to decrease the risk of SIDS, of course, including proper immunization and letting the baby sleep on its back. These, along with other useful tips, help to ensure babies face the lowest possible risk of SIDS, no matter where they live. Hopefully in time, parents will have more official answers on the cause, but for now, prevention seems to be the only thing in their arsenal.