Some Shocking Facts About Cot Death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS )

cot_death_SIDS_statistics
There has been a BBC story doing the rounds on Facebook about why Finland has such a low cot death rate (also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS). It got me thinking about the global statistics of SIDS and how/if it’s different for each country. I was really shocked at what I found.Below are the statistics for SIDS from a 2004 WHO report. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find any other up to date global statistics on SIDS. Interestingly (and annoyingly) the report ranked each country by the number of deaths per year. Obviously the USA, with such a huge population, ranked as the highest place for babies to die of SIDS (China and India were not included). But when I compared the number of deaths per country by the birth rate and how many babies are born there was a completely different picture.I was totally shocked to find that New Zealand ranked number one with the highest rate of recorded SIDS in the world! In fact babies are nearly twice as likely to die in New Zealand than they are in America! What is it that this peaceful, developed country is doing that makes it so much more dangerous for babies to sleep compared to El Salvador with all their drugs and gang related problems where they have the lowest recorded SIDS rate in the whole world?

I was also really surprised to see that in 2004 the UK was the safest place for babies to sleep in the western world at a 0.004% SIDS death rate. However, according to a BBC article, in 2010 254 babies died of SIDS. That’s 222 more babies dying than just six years previously. I wonder how correct all of these statistics are?

According to the WHO statistics more than 99.8% of babies all over the world will NOT die of cot death (SIDS). I always believed the rates were high and every baby was in danger. However, looking at the statistics below I really can’t figure out what is actually making the difference. How can there be such a big difference between all these countries?

Going back to the BBC article about Finland we can see that actually in 2004 babies were six times more likely to die there than in the UK. There is such a huge difference in the size of the population so when you look just at the numbers of deaths you can be very misled about the real picture. What is it that the UK is doing so much better than all the other westernised countries?

Looking at the statistics you will also notice that the poorer the country the safer babies sleep. Could this be to do with CoSleeping, breastfeeding, vaccinations, toxins in the water, the family unit, or maybe even genetics? But maybe all or none of these?

There is still a huge debate about what causes a baby to die in their sleep. It’s possible that for every baby that dies there is some one thing that has actually caused it no matter where in the world they are. We just don’t know yet. It does seem that the UK is doing something right, maybe something as simple as lying a baby on their back will stop the trigger from causing their death. Maybe it’s something else.

If you have more up to date statistics please will you let me know as I would like to do a more recent analysis.

Take a look at the summary table below and see just how much difference there is in a country’s ranking when considering their population… What surprises you most about this?

Table of Statistics: Rate of SIDS including population and birth rates 2004 (pdf)

Rank by Birth Rate
Nationmaster.com Rank by number of deaths
Countries
Amount of Cot Deaths (SIDS) 2004 Percentage of Cot Deaths
# 1 # 15 New Zealand: 62 0.114%
=2 = 32 Latvia: 17 0.074%
=2 = 42 Belize: 6 0.074%
# 4 # 8 Chile: 144 0.064%
# 5 # 1 United States: 2,523 0.063%
# 6 # 2 Germany: 429 0.062%
# 7 = 50 Barbados: 2 0.059%
# 8 = 23 Uruguay: 26 0.057%
# 9 # 49 Luxembourg: 3 0.056%
# 10 # 16 Paraguay: 56 0.053%
# 11 = 50 Malta: 2 0.049%
# 12 = 44 Qatar: 4 0.047%
=13 # 5 Argentina: 303 0.045%
=13 = 19 Austria: 32 0.045%
# 15 # 10 Australia: 103 0.042%
# 16 = 44 Bahrain: 4 0.041%
# 17 = 29 Norway: 20 0.040%
# 18 # 9 Canada: 121 0.036%
=19 # 3 Japan: 363 0.034%
=19 # 31 Denmark: 19 0.034%
=21 # 22 Sweden: 28 0.030%
=21 # 35 Kuwait: 14 0.030%
=21 = 36 Croatia: 13 0.030%
=21 # 39 Lithuania: 10 0.030%
=25 # 21 Nicaragua: 30 0.029%
=25 = 44 Estonia: 4 0.029%
# 27 = 53 Iceland: 1 0.026%
# 28 = 13 Ecuador: 65 0.025%
# 29 = 36 Finland: 13 0.024%
# 30 # 28 Hungary: 22 0.023%
=31 # 11 Korea, South: 87 0.021%
=31 = 53 Bahamas, The: 1 0.021%
=33 # 7 South Africa: 164 0.020%
=33 # 27 Israel: 24 0.020%
=35 # 12 Spain: 70 0.017%
=35 # 34 Czech Republic: 15 0.017%
# 36 = 29 Kyrgyzstan: 20 0.016%
# 37 = 25 Netherlands: 25 0.014%
# 38 # 6 Mexico: 261 0.013%
# 39 # 41 Slovakia: 7 0.012%
=40 # 4 Brazil: 318 0.011%
=40 # 18 Poland: 43 0.011%
# 42 = 32 Dominican Republic: 17 0.010%
=43 = 42 Costa Rica: 6 0.009%
=43 = 44 Puerto Rico: 4 0.009%
=45 # 40 Cuba: 8 0.007%
=45 = 44 Moldova: 4 0.007%
=47 # 17 Colombia: 45 0.006%
=47 = 53 Slovenia: 1 0.006%
=49 = 23 Venezuela: 26 0.005%
=49 = 25 Peru: 25 0.005%
=49 # 38 Romania: 11 0.005%
=52 = 13 Egypt: 65 0.004%
=52 = 19 United Kingdom: 32 0.004%
# 54 = 50 Panama: 2 0.003%
# 55 = 53 El Salvador: 1 0.001%

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10 thoughts on “Some Shocking Facts About Cot Death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS )

  1. Jill Ball

    No France or Italy or Russia in that list either. Lies, damned lies and statistics – and that’s the trouble, it’s hard to know. Interesting piece though, thank you.

    • Mumanu

      Yeah, it’s difficult to know which stats are real or not. Cot death that is explained isn’t strictly speaking SIDS so it’s difficult to know how they’re creating the statistics if they mix the two

  2. Caroline McNicol

    Cot death is an old fashioned term and SIDS is the international term, In NZ any healthy baby that dies unexpectedly is a SUD sudden unexplained death until the coroner deems it a SID death .We have very low breastfeeding rates and SIDS is directly linked to breastfeeding.WHO recommends for the first two years of life.Maori and Pacific babies are highest at risk and living in the South island.Mothers smoking prior and partners smoking prior to conception and during antenatal period and after also increase the risk. Breastfeeding apart from its obvious protective factors in the breastmilk also develops babies mouth,tongue and palate and breathing which are all interlinked and research has shown this to be the case. Also contributing factors damp uninsulated homes ,overcrowded homes with too many people living in them unhealthy living environments. Parents that use drugs, alcohol stimulants and bedshare with babies increase the risk of SIDS.It has been an on going problem in NZ for many years.The term cot death implied babies only died in cots but that is not accurate as they die in beds,prams,bassinets, on couches etc.Obesity of a parent and bedsharing also increases the risk. Mothers over relying on baby monitors and sleeping babies in a room alone also increases the risk. The room should be in winter 16 degrees. Bedsharing with baby and breastfeeding has protective effects from SIDS and mothers and babies have been doing this for thousands of years.See international recommendations by UNICEF website.

    • Mumanu

      You’re right, although America has even worse breastfeeding rates and obesity but their SIDS is much lower. I think your point about damp and cold conditions is probably one of the key reasons there’s such a big difference

  3. Margaret Fletcher

    In poorer countries they may eat more real food and less food products, not sure about how much smoking and alcohol – smoking being one of the biggest factors in SIDS – also maybe they sleep on the ground or low firm sleep surfaces without all the soft western bedding. Some traditional cultures have mother and baby sleeping together but separate from father during the more vulnerable time…would be great to know which variables make the biggest difference.

    • Mumanu

      I think you’re right but in the UK there are lots of smokers and soft bedding. I’m not sure how many babies are in the same room/same bed in the UK but it certainly seems that they are doing right

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