SIDS Program Manual SIDS & Infant Death Program Manual and Trainer's Guide Trainer's Guide

What is SIDS?

SIDS Racial Disparities


African Americans

African Americans have a long, complicated and diverse history in the United States. They account for approximately 13 to 14 percent of the population in the United States currently. Approximately 80 percent of the African American population resides in urban settings and more than 50 percent of all African Americans live in 13 States.

Differences in health are varied but include higher disease and illness rates, higher rates of chronic conditions and a shorter life expectancy. It is important to note that African American women also have lower rates of high-risk behaviors such as smoking, alcohol use and other drug use. Poverty and racism are generally believed to have a profound impact on African American women's health.

SUID/SIDS Rates. While infant mortality declined by 10 percent overall during the last ten years, the infant mortality rate among African Americans remains more than twice that of Whites. This substantial gap has not diminished since 1990.21 In addition, African Americans have a SIDS rate of 1.4 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Prevalence of Risk Factors. Researchers have been able to pinpoint a number of important risk factors specific to African Americans that may contribute to a higher risk for SIDS and other infant deaths.22 Nearly ten years after the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that infants be placed to sleep on their backs to reduce their risk of SIDS, African Americans remain twice as likely to place infants on their stomachs to sleep as other racial/ethnic groups.23

Research also shows that while only 12 percent of infants with White mothers sleep in an adult bed, 41.8 percent of infants with African American mothers sleep in adult beds.24

African American infants are also at higher risk for accidental suffocation compared to infants in the non-African American population.25

Although published research on bedsharing and co-sleeping patterns in African American households remains scarce, there is some evidence to suggest that the practice may be common.

There is research that has been conducted on a number of urban populations in the United States that indicates that African American mothers are more likely to bedshare. Studies in Chicago26 and St. Louis27 found that bedsharing was most common among low-income, predominantly African American mothers and that as many as half of them routinely practiced bedsharing, compared to a national average of 12.8 percent. In Washington, D.C., a recent study found that mothers who are single, move frequently and have less than 12 years of education were more likely to bedshare.28