TUESDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that more
babies die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in the United
States on New Year's Day than any other day of the year.
It's not clear why, but researchers suspect it has something to
do with parents who drink heavily the night before and put their
children in jeopardy.
"Alcohol-influenced adults are less able to protect children in their care. We're saying the same thing is happening with SIDS: They're also less likely to protect the baby from it," said study author David Phillips, a sociologist. "It seems as if alcohol is a risk factor. We just need to find out what makes it a risk factor."
SIDS kills an estimated 2,500 babies in the United States each
year. Some researchers think genetic problems contribute to most
cases, with the risk boosted when babies sleep on their
Phillips is a professor of sociology at the University of
California at San Diego who studies when such deaths happen and
why. He said he became curious how the choices made by parents may
affect SIDS and launched the new study, which appears in the
current issue of the journal
Researchers analyzed a database of 129,090 deaths from SIDS from
1973-2006 and 295,151 other infant deaths during that time period.
They found that the highest number of deaths from SIDS occur on New
Year's Day: They spike by almost a third above the number of deaths
that would be expected on a winter day.
The study doesn't prove that anything is the cause of the SIDS
deaths. (The number of other kinds of infant deaths didn't spike
significantly on New Year's Day.) However, the researchers point
out that there's plenty of drinking on New Year's Eve. They point
to research that says the number of people involved in
alcohol-related car crashes skyrockets on New Year's Eve, well
beyond any other day of the year.
Why might boozing on New Year's Eve night threaten babies on New
Year's Day? Phillips thinks that drunk parents are doing something
-- or not doing something -- that puts babies at higher risk. But
he acknowledges that the study doesn't prove that.
"I would say there's enough evidence here to warrant further investigation," he said, "but not enough to make every parent of every SIDS baby a suspect."
One SIDS specialist said parents who have too much to drink may
miss the signs of a baby in distress while they're asleep. "If you
can't awaken your own self, how will you be sensitive if a baby is
vulnerable?" asked Dr. Debra E. Weese-Mayer, professor of
pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of
Ultimately, she said, caregivers of babies shouldn't drink at
all, even if they avoid becoming drunk. "Parents and caregivers
need to grow up. If you're going to take care of a child, you have
to be responsible."
For more about
SIDS, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.