Infant Mortality

What is Safe Sleep?

Putting baby to sleep in ways that can help protect him/her from dangers, such as choking, suffocation, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

What is Unsafe Sleep?

Anything in the caretaker’s control that could increase an infant’s risk of sleep-related death.

This could be due to a number of factors, sleeping position, sleeping surface, sleeping environment, cultural customs and belief, simply not knowing safe sleep practices and the recommendations.


Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

What is it?
SIDS is the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than one year old.

Although SIDS is not always due unsafe sleep, it can include factors such as sleeping position, sleeping surface, and sleeping environment

What are the risk factors?

Age: SIDS is most common for babies between 1 and 4 months. But it can happen at any time during the first year of life.

Time of year: Infants born during the colder months are at a disadvantage because as parents, we want to ensure our babies are warm when they’re sleeping – it’s just our natural instinct. So, during the winter, when the temperature is lower, babies are more likely to have blankets in their sleeping environment, which is dangerous because babies can pull the blanket over their face and suffocate.

Health status: Premature babies are at a higher risk due to their health status as well, and may have other compromising conditions that could attribute to SIDS (respiratory issues, heart complications, etc.).

Race: Black babies are 2.5-3 times more likely than white babies to die due to SIDS and this does not take into account any other type of disparity such as education level, marital status, or socioeconomic status.

How can families reduce their baby’s risk of SIDS?

  • Follow safe sleep practices
  • Don’t smoke around baby
  • Breastfeed baby, if possible
  • Make sure baby receives all necessary vaccinations


Unsafe Sleep Deaths in Ohio


In Ohio there are 3 unsafe sleep deaths each week


45% due to an infant sleeping in an adult bed


50+ babies died due to unsafe sleep practices in Summit and Mahoning Counties

Putting safe sleep deaths into perspective, statewide in Ohio there are 3 unsafe sleep deaths each week, which equates to ~150 infant unsafe sleep deaths per year.

45% of those that were due to an infant sleeping in an adult bed (co-sleeping).

Between the years of 2013-2019, there were 50+ babies that died due to unsafe sleep practices in Summit and Mahoning Counties. The majority of those families were either co-sleeping with their babies in bed, or in the care of someone other the parent/primary caregiver who was not aware of safe sleep practices.

Chart: Annual Infant Mortality for Summit County

“That is 50+ babies who didn’t make it to their first birthday and at least 50 mothers and/or caregivers who experience an excruciating loss. This solidifies why the work you are doing supporting safe sleep education and providing access to a safe place for every baby to sleep is so important.

There is a disproportionate number of black infants (under the age of 1) dying in Summit and Mahoning County. A Non-Hispanic, African American baby is 2.5-3 times more likely to die than a Non-Hispanic white baby in Summit County, not factoring in other disparities such as marital status, socioeconomic status, or level of education.

Specifically for safe sleep deaths, hot spot zip codes are also expanding (44406, 44502, 44505, 44506, 44507, 44509, 44512, 44305, 44306, 44310, 44320, and newly added 44314). Our efforts at Akron Children's are focused on all races and ethnicities, but there is special attention being placed on our African American mothers, who are losing their babies at a much higher rate.


Take the Quiz

How many infants die each week in Ohio due to unsafe sleep?

TRUE or FALSE: In Summit County, African American baby is 2.5 to 3 times more likely to die than a Caucasian baby.