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February 1, 1995

Release # 95-073
CPSC: Kathleen Begala
(301) 504-0580, Ext. 1193

CPSC Releases New Study on Infant Suffocation

"Don't put your baby to sleep on top of soft bedding," CPSC Chairman Ann Brown warns.

Washington, D.C. - Unsafe use of soft bedding may contribute to the deaths of as many as 1,800 infants each year, according to a study being released today by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The two-year study found that up to 30 percent of the 6,000 babies who die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) each year may have suffocated to death when placed on top of pillows, comforters, sheepskins, and other soft products.

The findings emphasize the need for parents to be careful when putting their infants down to sleep in their cribs, said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. Parents should never put their babies to sleep on top of soft, fluffy products such as pillows, comforters, or sheepskins, she said.

"Many parents are buying soft, fluffy infant products for cribs," the chairman added. "Such products are beautiful, but parents must remember: never put fluffy products under a baby."

"It is important to note that we have not found a cause for SIDS," Brown said. "But this study does show an association between infants placed on top of soft bedding and many deaths attributed to SIDS."

The study was sparked by preliminary evidence that soft bedding may play a role in the occurrence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which kills some 6,000 babies each year in the United States.

A team of CPSC investigators found that about 30 percent of infants who died of SIDS between 1992 and 1993 were found with their noses and mouths covered by soft bedding. Most of those infants had been placed on their stomachs to sleep and were lying either on top of sheepskin bedding, on top of pillows, or on top of comforters.

By using mechanical models to recreate the death scenes, scientists tested the bedding for carbon dioxide accumulation. Their tests found that high levels of carbon dioxide frequently accumulated in some of the bedding products. Rebreathing their own carbon dioxide may have contributed to the infants' deaths, the researchers concluded.

The CPSC study used a unique, multi-site, multi-disciplinary design to examine the association of bedding products and SIDS deaths. CPSC began the study after learning of infant deaths associated with the use of soft products designed for babies. Eighty percent of the SIDS deaths that CPSC studied occurred in babies under the age of four months.

"The study performed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission is an important contribution to our understanding and possible prevention of this devastating problem," said John Kattwinkel, M.D., chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' task force on SIDS.

CPSC recommends the following safety guidelines for infants less than eight months old:

  • Place infants to sleep in a crib on a firm, flat mattress.
  • Do not place soft, fluffy products, such as pillows, comforters, or sheepskins under infants while they sleep or nap.
  • Place healthy infants on their backs or sides to sleep, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission protects the public from the unreasonable risk of injury or death from 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury and for information on CPSC's fax-on-demand service, call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270. To order a press release through fax-on-demand, call (301) 504-0051 from the handset of your fax machine and enter the release number. Consumers can obtain this release and recall information or report product hazards to