April 26, 2012

If the rate of fatal accidents for children and teens has fallen 30% in the past 10 years...

... why has the death by suffocation rate for babies under 1 year old risen 51%?

It's also notable that the death by poisoning rate increased 91% among 15 to 19 year olds. 15 to 19? I'm guessing these unfortunates are ingesting substances voluntarily. Alcohol poisoning counts in this statistic, right?

Let's concentrate on the babies who don't make it past their first year. I thought suffocation precautions had stepped up. Didn't everyone switch to putting the baby to sleep on his back, and aren't there all these rules about the construction of cribs and the dangers of bed clothes and dangling cords? Is it "co-sleeping"?
The reasons bed sharing has increased are multifaceted. For some parents it is about bonding with their baby, and ease of breastfeeding; for some it is a periodic thing, because a child is sick or frightened, or because the parents just happen to fall asleep with the baby in their bed. It also seems to be cultural — the phenomenon is more prevalent among Asian and African-American households. And sometimes it is out of sheer necessity — the family can’t afford a crib....

The American Academy of Pediatrics has been cautioning against [co-sleeping] for years, warning that parents can roll on top of their infants during sleep, or that a pillow can cover a baby’s face or a blanket can get wrapped around the child’s neck, or the child can get wedged between the mattress and the wall...
Or is it murder, undetected?

58 comments:

harrogate said...

Yeah. it's MURDER!!!! undetected.

cue scary music.

rhhardin said...

There's a rail around the sides of whelping boxes that gives pups a place to not be rolled over on.

Triangle Man said...

Murder most foul.

Althouse, I hope you are going for the darkly comic angle here. Otherwise, what evidence can you offer to support your suspicion? Maybe it's a cover up of ritual human sacrifice among a rising tide of devil worshipers. Maybe it's aliens.

TWM said...

Makes sense. Killing em early saves on a ton of expenses - college alone is probably worth it.

James said...

I'm surprised that Milwaukee wasn't mentioned since it appears to be the epicenter of co-sleeping deaths. As recently as February there were three deaths attributed to co-sleeping in one 48-hour period.

Nathan Alexander said...

I'm betting that at least some of it is murder, undetected.

There is a myth of maternal love.

The myth is not that it exists, and not that it is powerful. It is both those things.

The myth is that it is universal and must never, ever be questioned.

Our society insists that if a man murders his children, he is lower than the scum on the bottom of the shoes of the worst scum. But if a woman murders her children, she must have been forced to it by a horrible man and/or horrible circumstances; she deserves our pity, understanding, and help; and we should never punish or even investigate because it can only make worse the unimaginable pain she must be feeling with the death of her children.

Andrea Yates
Marybeth Tinning
Susan Smith

In watching the lurid Forensic reality TV shows on late-night weekends, I'm struck by how when a woman murders her husband, she always depends on (or tries to depend on) sympathy for her horrible, horrible grief to get away with it. In the most stark and painful-to-see example, when one woman felt the law closing in on her for murdering her second husband, she poisoned her daughter and then tried to frame it as suicide due to guilt for patricide.

Women can be sociopaths, too.

I've slept beside kittens, puppies, babies, etc. I've never come close to suffocating one.

Anyone who has a baby die of suffocation needs to be investigated deeply.

Ann Althouse said...

"Otherwise, what evidence can you offer to support your suspicion?"

Infanticide is an old practice. The temptations are obvious. Human frailty has been observed. Abortion is widely accepted.

TWM said...

"Abortion is widely accepted."

Ohhhhhhhhhhh, what you said . . .

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm surprised that Milwaukee wasn't mentioned since it appears to be the epicenter of co-sleeping deaths. As recently as February there were three deaths attributed to co-sleeping in one 48-hour period."

I was going to bring that up. I know there's an "epidemic" there.

I was also going to suggest that adult obesity is part of the problem.

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

Perhaps there is a developing social understanding that post-birth "abortion" is permitted for a period of one year, so long as no marks of violence appear on the dead body. If the method is something like asphyxiation or death by heat in a closed car, the authorities accept the explanation that it was an accident, and the loss is personal to the family. The door is closed.

James said...


I was going to bring that up. I know there's an "epidemic" there.

I was also going to suggest that adult obesity is part of the problem.


Add alcohol and drug use.

My strong suspicion is that some of it is undetected murder since the investigations seem to be cursory at best.

James said...

City of Milwaukee Safe Sleep Brief


51 deaths between 2008-2010
12 deaths in 2011
4 in 2012

"66.7% of all 2008-2010 sleep-related deaths showed that these infants were bed-sharing with adults or siblings at the time of their death."

"31.4% of the adults taking care of these infants who died during sleep from 2008-2010, admitted to using alcohol or drugs immediately preceding the time of death."

Scott M said...

Didn't everyone switch to putting the baby to sleep on his back

This seems to switch every ten years or so. And, from my German-national inlaws, I know that they do the same thing, but usually the opposite of what we're doing. So, if US "experts" are saying put the kid on his stomach, the Germans are putting little Hans on his back and visa versa.

The daughter of the owner of my company lost her first child to "crib death" about three months ago. The boy was about three months old and was put to sleep on his back.

chuckR said...

Using the MS rate of 25 per 100,000, this still leads to a 99.55% probability that you'll make it through age 18. MA's odds are better at 99.93%. (These numbers are simplistic as they assume random occurences, which is certainly not true, but still useful). I am not slighting the pain of loss of the families who lose a child, but even the worst seems pretty safe. I wonder what the odds are once you reverse out self inflicted injury and death like teens gobbling parent's pills or drinking hand sanitizer or getting involved in gang violence? Or, uh, the intentional accidents to which Althouse alludes?

Rob said...

What for many years was labeled "SIDS" is now generally considered to be suffocation, I think.

prairie wind said...

What for many years was labeled "SIDS" is now generally considered to be suffocation, I think.

I agree with you but am not sure SIDS deaths are counted as suffocation.

Sleeping with a baby seems incredibly foolish to me. Hearing a single story of a baby suffocated by a sleeping parent was enough to stop me from considering it, even at my sleepiest...and yet people do it all the time, even after they've heard the same stories.

acm said...

If there's a problem with families not being able to afford cribs, I know why---new regulations have made cribs ridiculously expensive. When a family does buy one, it's more cumbersome. Drop-side cribs are now either illegal or pretty close to it; I was informed that I could not sell the drop-side crib that I used with my youngest (who is only five) at our community yard sale. It was put in the same category as other hazardous materials. It's a shame, because some mom who mightn't be able to afford a new crib could've gotten a lovely one for a steal. Goodwill couldn't take it either. I eventually gave it away on craigslist (shhhh don't tell anyone) to a young family...the expectant mom was five foot even, I don't know how she would've managed without a drop-side.

I looked it up and, tragically, something like a dozen babies have died in drop-side cribs over the last ten years or so. I wonder how many more babies died when their petite, exhausted (extreme tiredness is a factor in co-sleeping deaths) mothers decided to sleep with the baby "just tonight" rather than balance on a step stool to put him/her in the crib.

Peter said...

What for many years was labeled "SIDS" is now generally considered to be suffocation, I think.

Isn't the rule that a parent gets one SIDS death ignored, but two or more results in serious police investigation?

Scott M said...

I looked it up and, tragically, something like a dozen babies have died in drop-side cribs over the last ten years or so.

Here's the thing. These cribs have been around for a long, long time, but they were made with METAL sliders and brackets. When I went shopping for my son (who's now two and a half, so he's sporting just the half-rail), ALL of the drop-side cribs had PLASTIC runners and brackets.

If they fail, like the bottom of the drop-side coming out of it's runner, allowing the baby to get caught and thus possibly strangling, it's because the plastic has warped or otherwise deformed. Metal does not do this under most normal situations. Plastic, on the other hand, is a harsh mistress.

EDH said...

Or is it murder, undetected?

Round here, we prefer the word "choice", m'kay?

acm said...

You know, I can see banning the plastic parts on drop-sides, especially on the cribs being manufactured. I can see a forced recall in which all the owners of cribs with plastic parts on the drop-side got to have them replaced with metal. But I do think they took it to far in banning them all. The crib I had (bought for my now 7-year-old and used with both her and my youngest) actually had metal attachments, and it wasn't a fancy one---just your basic Jenny Lind from Sears.

raf said...

Possibly the best evidence of a benevolent diety is how the human race has managed to survive all those many millenia without various child protective services/legislation/regulation.

Joe said...

This is the problem of really small numbers changing. If before you had two in one hundred thousand and now you have three, that's a, gasp, 50% increase!

So instead of exclaiming "My God, things are so much safer now than ever in history." It's all doom and gloom and pouty faces (and calls for yet more government regulation--can't even have one death, you know.)

Auntie Ann said...

This story came out yesterday:

"The California Poison Control System has received 60 reports of teenagers drinking hand sanitizer since 2010, showing the dangerous trend is not unique to Los Angeles.

"Hand sanitizer, which has 62% ethyl alcohol, produces a potent drink that can cause alcohol poisoning. Some of the cases involve teenagers who used salt to separate out the alcohol."

edutcher said...

The retroactive abortion thing Ann mentions may well be it. Children can be such an inconvenience.

All the medical ethicists are certainly in favor of it.

As always, somewhere Heinrich Himmler is laughing...

Rob said...

What for many years was labeled "SIDS" is now generally considered to be suffocation, I think.

Depends.

The Blonde's son was a 6 months preemie and died of it.

But, yes, I'm sure some people use it as a catchall, like ADD.

fleetusa said...

I tend to agree with AAlthouse. One way of measuring it might be the amount of trauma which the mother has post-death. Of course, no one will study that. Sometimes only the relatives will know and won't say.

kimsch said...

I've never rolled over on a child or a cat or a dog in the bed.

When actually asleep, people don't move. You roll over or change position when you wake up a little.

On the cribs, banning all those perfectly useful cribs was stupid. I agree about plastic parts. But I also tightened the screws on the metal parts on my cribs quite often.

I think part of the problem was that parents would put the crib together and forget it. Once that baby can start holding onto the side and pulling up or just shake the crib basic maintenance is more important. I was tightening the screws and bolts at least once a week to ensure that the damn thing would stay together and not fall apart with a baby inside.

The other stupid thing was the number of deaths and the number of years over which those deaths occurred. The deaths are tragic, but there were so few. I'm sorry for those families' losses but the costs imposed on other families and businesses are too much.

Triangle Man said...

Infanticide is an old practice. The temptations are obvious. Human frailty has been observed. Abortion is widely accepted.


Also, I don't get the link to abortion. Are you saying people who are pro-life should be suspected of having deliberately suffocating their children because they don't recognize a distinction between the life of the born and unborn? Because the pro-choice crowd seems to pretty clearly place more value on the life around birth.

holdfast said...

Can't afford a crib? A pack n play is $62, including shipping. And around $25 used in your local consignment store. It's portable enough you can set it up right next to your bed for easy access for feedings.

I think co-sleeping is idiotic - you're just begging for an accident.

http://www.amazon.com/Graco-Pack-Playard-Bassinet-Pasadena/dp/B004Y9AKZI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335465084&sr=8-1

Scott M said...

I think co-sleeping is idiotic - you're just begging for an accident.

Co-sleeping is shitty sleeping. Poor sleeping. Not deep enough for long enough sleeping. In a word, it sucks.

Synova said...

If people are drunk or drugged, I suppose it's dangerous to sleep with your baby, but like Nathan said, I've slept with tiny kittens curled at my side and never rolled onto them, I'm not going to smother a baby.

But I'm never drunk, either.

Still, my first guess would be that they've changed the way they record the deaths.

Scott M said...

Still, my first guess would be that they've changed the way they record the deaths.

Well, they were dictating the records to a monkey that would chisel the numbers into a slab, but after they moved the records facility from Bedrock to DC, I think they went with regular computers.

ginnad said...

I don't understand the "can't afford a crib" argument. My parents put me in a drawer for the first few months of my life, and I'm only 40. My mother recalls a perfectly sized orange crate her mother used for her five children. (Portable even!)

I mean, all infants need are sides high enough that they can't roll out, and a small enough enclosure to be cozy.

People make things much harder than they need to be in this day and age...

marylynn said...

All five of our kids slept in our bed as infants. We never rolled on any of them, nor did we worry about that. Babies have slept next to their mothers since the beginning of time. I suspect the high rate in Milwaukee is what was already mentioned. Obese, drunk or drugged parents.

Blue@9 said...

If people are drunk or drugged, I suppose it's dangerous to sleep with your baby, but like Nathan said, I've slept with tiny kittens curled at my side and never rolled onto them, I'm not going to smother a baby.

But I'm never drunk, either.


Yeah, I was wondering, what's the level of underreporting of intoxication by parents who roll over on their babies? As a baby I slept in my parents' bed, as do all babies in my culture. Crushing your baby is generally not a problem unless you're a serious dead-to-the-world sleeper. Or drunk.

Radish said...

The Milwaukee "co-sleeping" deaths are predominantly caused by mothers or other "caretakers" being drunk or drugged and not giving a [noun] about their sleeping infant.

I know it's trendy to blame "obesity" for everything wrong in the world today, but it's absolutely irrelevant here. Shame on you.

kmg said...

I'll tell you why.

Because 41% of births are to single mothers. These are women who were not 'abandoned' by the man, but overtly chose to not involve the father despite his wishes to be involved in the child's life (although his paycheck is still something she gleefully has garnished).

More single mothers = more dead infants.

kmg said...

Or is it murder, undetected?

This too.

Feminists are very committed to ensuring partial-birth abortion remains legal, and are pushing for post-birth abortion as well.

Post-birth abortion. Otherwise known as infanticide.

Why do they want to kill their own kids, near or after birth? I am OK with early-term abortions, but these late 'abortions' are clearly not due to rape or incest (the usual reasons given).

It does not take 8.5, 9, or 18 months to figure out if the pregnancy was due to rape or incest. Rather, women want a way out if motherhood is 'too hard' or gets in the way of her clubbing, shopping, or pursuit of serial killers for sexual thrills.

Also, don't underestimate how many of these infanticides were due to the father losing his job (i.e. no longer being the meal ticket for the mother), or the father becoming less attractive to the woman in some other way.

Clare King said...

Not being able to afford a crib is ridiculous.

My son slept in the laundry basket for a time, and his play pen.

Heck, a pallet on the floor is better than in the be with mom and dad, I think.

gutless said...

It's the Peter Singer effect.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Perhaps the change over time reflects attempts to sustain ever more premature infants. Regional variations argue against this possibility, I suppose.
Plus, murder (or, if you prefer, fifth trimester abortion).

kmg said...

Nathan Alexander,

But if a woman murders her children, she must have been forced to it by a horrible man and/or horrible circumstances; she deserves our pity, understanding, and help;

I agree. In fact, this is what most REPUBLICANS think (let alone leftists).

That is why both sides of the abortion debate are misandric. The so-called 'pro-life' crowd would rather impose brutally infair debtor's prison on men (even if the woman wants the man to have no interaction with his own children), than even suggest that women are at least 50% responsible for their own pregnancies.

It always bugged me how conservatives want to be 'pro-life' but never shift the debate upstream towards why unwanted pregnancies happen. This is because conservatives will never, ever even begin to toy with the notion that the woman might be anything less than 100% pure and angellic.

Only the man could ever be a wrongdoer.

This, both sides of the abortion/reproductive rights debate are misandric. A man has no rights, but has to pay, with no recourse. But left and 'right' agree.

JAL said...

The fact that I have had a baby sleep with me from time to time (4 kids) and all survived is not evidence that babies aren't smothered by their mothers "accidentally."

My guess is, as other mentioned, alcohol and drugs. Drug/alcohol screen post co-sleeping death should be mandatory.

Babies can be so inconvenient. One has to change so many of one's behaviors in order to protect and provide for little humans.

tshanks78 said...

Other then humans one can't name a single species that puts their infant to bed in a box on the other side of the room. Co-sleeping is perfectly natural and only a fool or a murderer would suffocate their child this way.

ThomasD said...

My guess is, as other mentioned, alcohol and drugs. Drug/alcohol screen post co-sleeping death should be mandatory.

I work small rural hospitals on weekends, and my duties have involved responding to codes, including the ER.

Although it only a couple incidents, and not a representative sample, my experiences involving infants 'found' unresponsive at home tells me that an adult was sleeping in the same bed, and it is likely that drugs and/or alcohol was involved.

kmg said...

I would also like to know the gender of the babies who died.

If significantly more are boys than girls, then those of us who suspect a wave of 'post-birth abortions' has suddenly a rock-solid piece of proof behind them.

A single mother gets pregnant because hey, it is easy to do it by yourself, particularly when the court will seize money from the father but allow you to exclude him from the child's life.

But after a bit, motherhoods gets hard....and is inconvenient for a life of bar-hopping and pursuit of criminal men for sexual thrills.... that, combined with feminist propaganda of how all males are evil...

Causes the baby boy to be a victim of 'choice'. A fifth-trimester abortion if you will....

What is the gender-mix of the suffocated babies? If 55% or more were boys, then yes, infanticide is rampant in America.

billo said...

This is a big issue in my community (forensic pathology). There are a number of reasons for the change in statistic. One is that people who classify deaths are more suspicious of suffocation in cosleeping. In the past, people wouldn't classify a death as asphyxiation unless there was good evidence of overlay (snuch as blanching of livor). Otherwise, it was called a SIDS, knowing that some of these are asphyxiation. Now, some offices tend to call any case in which there is cosleeping an asphyxial death unless there is hard evidence otherwise. Thus, the diagnostic prejudice has flipped.

The data on cosleeping is mixed. There are some situations, such as cosleeping on a couch or when drunk, that have markedly increased risk factors for death. There are other situations where it looks like cosleeping "correctly," decreases the likelihood of sudden death in infants. Thus, I believe that it is incorrect tos one with paint this with a broad brush.

Nonetheless, there are DAs out there are who are prosecuting mothers who have children who die if they are bedsharing, and some forensic pathologists argue that most SIDS are asphyxia and that SIDS, per se, should be abolished as a diagnosis; there are jurisdictions where deaths are *never* classified SIDS. I believe both of these positions are suboptimal; my policy is to continue to diagnose SIDS unless there is overt evidence of overlay.

Nathan Alexander said...

That is why both sides of the abortion debate are misandric. The so-called 'pro-life' crowd would rather impose brutally infair debtor's prison on men (even if the woman wants the man to have no interaction with his own children), than even suggest that women are at least 50% responsible for their own pregnancies.

It always bugged me how conservatives want to be 'pro-life' but never shift the debate upstream towards why unwanted pregnancies happen. This is because conservatives will never, ever even begin to toy with the notion that the woman might be anything less than 100% pure and angellic.


Srsly?

It isn't the conservative side pushing the idea that women are perfect and anything bad that happens to a woman is a man's fault.

Conservatives absolutely are concerned with why unwanted and/or unexpected pregnancies occur. You may have heard of the abstinence movement?

Now, I grant you: there are plenty of conservatives who don't push back against the Feminist and Big Govt Movements that push the Deadbeat Dad meme. But the bulk of the momentum for enslaving a man for child support (lots of evil stuff: he's the father if the woman says he is, and he's enslaved until the child is 18. If he didn't/couldn't get a paternity test, and made payments, then he is stuck for payments until 18 even if the paternity test later shows he isn't the father. It is usually impossible to reduce payments, even if you lose your job, etc) whether or not he wants the child but leaving the woman free to choose whether or not to get an abortion has been pushed by the liberals in the judicial system.

Conservatives generally advocate for personal responsibility, for men AND women.
Liberals tend to try to find someone else to pay for the favored victim.

Which sounds like the side more likely to be unfair in giving all the rights of choice to the woman, but not to the man?

(emphasize: there may be significant partisan overlap on this issue...but I'm confident conservatives tend to recognize the selfishness and imperfection of women more than liberals)

ThomasD said...

One more thing.

When dealing with an infant resuscitation, it is standard to quickly examine the eyes for retinal hemorrhage (a sign of shaken baby syndrome) prior to administering epinephrine (a standard approach to cardiac arrest.) Since this drug is a potent vasoconstrictor it can mask any such finding.

Unfortunately, in the rush of confronting a child in full arrest it does get overlooked.

kmg said...

Nathan Alexander,

Conservatives generally advocate for personal responsibility, for men AND women.

They start out with that intention, but immediately cave and start groveling once a woman uses shaming language.

has been pushed by the liberals in the judicial system.

Yes, but Republicans often go along with it quite gleefully.

For example, 'welfare reform', touted as a conservative success in 1996, really just made the child support laws that much more strict and draconian towards men.

One can accurately say that as soon as leftism gets packaged as feminism, a conservative supports it, as his desire to appear 'chivalrous' supercedes his commitment to any other conservative principle.

I wish this was not true, but it is for this reason, that I am now a former Republican, who has no party to support. I support a few individuals who have demonstrated that they stand up to misandry (Chris Christie for starters), but Sarah Palin, Steve Forbes, etc. are no friends of men.

I encourage you to read this :

Why Republicans will not shrink Government.

As well as Dalrock's blog.

Many, if not most Republicans can be shamed into supporting leftism if a 'chivalrous' wrapper is placed around the issue.

Donna B. said...

hmmmm... when I was the mother of babies (oh so many, many years ago) sleeping with the baby happened only when either of the parents accidentally fell asleep. That most often happened in a recliner or sitting up at the end of a couch.

Sure, that could be defined as a regional/cultural thing. (The south/cracker in my case).

Cracker does not mean poor. The cribs I bought were top of the line for the day.

What has changed is the pressure to breastfeed exclusively -- never ever give the baby a bottle even if it contains breastmilk. It's the exclusively part that matters, I think.

While someone upthread wants to see stats on the genders of these suffocated babies... I want to see stats on those suffocated by mothers pressured into breastfeeding exclusively.

MSG said...

"Overlaying" was once considered a plausible cause of infant death. E.g., in the Judgment of Solomon story (1 Kings 3:16-25):

"And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it."

Michael said...

Honestly, if you're not passed out in a stupor, there's no way you're going to roll over on an infant and smother it. You're way too aware of your baby even while sleeping to do that. Co-sleeping is great in those first few months because instead of having to get up, turn on lights, sit in a chair, etc. mom can just feed the baby in bed and everyone goes back to sleep.

There's nothing weird or dangerous about it-- assuming you're not drugged when you go to sleep.

Chip Ahoy said...

This gives me the idea for baby roll cages. You can still reach in there and touch them and squeeze them and hug them but you cannot squash them to death.

The numbers are hinting at a more dreadful scenario, but do not despair. The humans have advanced the survival rate of little babies but they have not advanced the tolerance for irritability so Nature weeds out babies that cry too much and fuss annoyingly, it culls baby irritability in favor of baby pleasantness. You are witnessing the advent of the age of great baby pleasantness but at a dreadful initial cost.

MMR said...

Regarding the suffocation increase: If you go directly to the report, you'll see a note referring you to the CDC's SUID program: http://www.cdc.gov/sids/suidabout.htm

They have revised the reporting form and provided training on how to report SUID beginning in the years of 2003 - 2006 through today. If you look at the infant death rate graphic, there seems to be some correlation with these dates, indicating perhaps this is a "how we identify and report" issue, not a "more babies are suffocating" issue.

My first questions, when seeing reports like this are, "Where did the data come from" and "How are they defining the data". If you know WHAT they are counting and HOW they are counting, and if those things have changed, you will be a more savy consumer of statistics.

Jamie said...

Co-sleeping kept me sane... I'm not especially granola in most walks of life, but I did breastfeed my three until they were much older than probably most people here would approve of (but I also introduced solids earlier than those who WOULD approve of breastfeeding a toddler would usually approve of, and in one case the first solid food was the inside of a french fry, so...) (in my own defense, that french fry incident was my mother-in-law, not me, but I was sitting right there laughing, not slapping it out of her hand), and all three slept with us until they slept through the night on their own.

Of course, I wouldn't have dreamt of getting drunk, AND we have a king-sized bed and use standard-sized pillows (so, plenty of empty space between pillows), AND we lived in Houston at the time (so, no heavy blankets), AND when they were bitty, I took one wall of the crib that propriety dictated we buy and butted it up against our bed, closing the gap with a wedge-shaped foam dealie made for the purpose, so that while I could roll over and present a boob when necessary, I couldn't actually roll into the area where the infant was sleeping. As a result, I got much more deep sleep and was less likely to end up wide awake in the middle of the night, my husband slept better (because he was never on baby duty and I wasn't disturbing him by getting up, sighing heavily, and trudging over to a distant baby), and the Saturday morning baby cuddles were phenomenal for both of us.

prairie wind said...

Enjoyed your post, Jamie. Your sense of humor probably kept you sane.