Babies are dying in places where they should never be laid down to sleep, despite the presence of cribs in their homes, research presented on Monday at a gathering of the nation's pediatricians shows.
A team from the University of New Mexico and the state's medical investigator's office reviewed information on 91 children under age 1 who died in the state between 2006 and 2010.
Jessica Black, a third-year student at the medical school and lead author of the study, presented the findings to the American Academy of Pediatrics' meeting in Boston.
Included in the study were 59 babies whose deaths were classified as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or Sudden Unexplained Infant Death and 28 for whom the cause of death was undetermined.
The researchers found that 71 percent of the infants who died mysteriously had been found on an unsafe sleep surface, 50 percent were sharing a sleep surface with someone else and 52 percent were in a sleep position other than on their back.
Among the infants found in an unsafe place, 57 percent were in homes that had a crib. And in 30 percent of those homes, the crib was being used for another purpose.
"These numbers track the conditions we've seen nationally," said Judy Bannon, founder of Cribs for Kids, a Pittsburgh-based national network dedicated to safe sleep education for new parents.
"The cribs are used for storage or filled with stuffed animals while baby sleeps in mom and dad's bed. Or the crib is too big to keep mom near the baby. Lately, we're seeing a number of problems arising from so many recalls of unsafe cribs, which many young parents find confusing and frightening."
A national campaign for a safer infant sleep environment was started in the mid-1990s and continues today. But that program emphasized "Back to Sleep" over other aspects of baby sleep surroundings in a bid to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Many experts estimate that 50 to 80 percent of the more than 4,500 sudden unexpected infant deaths each year could be prevented if babies were placed in a safe spot and position every time they're laid down to sleep.
"Despite the success of sleeping awareness campaigns, many of the remaining SIDS cases involve prone (face down) sleeping and unsafe sleeping environments, such as bed sharing and infants being put to sleep outside of a crib or bassinet," Black said.