Why Do SIDS Deaths Spike on New Year’s Day?

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Not to be a downer before New Year’s Eve, but here’s an important fact to consider before your end-of-year festivities begin. The number of babies who die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) rises by 33% on New Year’s Day, according to a study published in Addiction

Led by sociologist David Phillips of the University of California, San Diego, researchers examined 129,090 SIDS cases from 1973 to 2006 using three multiyear nationwide datasets. While the study could not pinpoint a definitive cause of SIDS, the authors believe caretakers’ use of alcohol played a role. According to the study’s press release:

Phillips and his coauthors found three types of evidence linking SIDS to alcohol. In addition to rising, just like alcohol consumption, more on New Year’s than at any other day of the year, SIDS and alcohol consumption also increase every weekend. And the SIDS death rate is abnormally high for children of alcohol-consuming mothers: Babies of mothers who drink are more than twice as likely to die of SIDS.

The study also found a rise in SIDS just after April 20 (or 4/20), a counterculture celebration of cannabis, and after July 4, which is also known as an inebriated time, though the rise on neither of these dates is as dramatic as on New Year’s.

To see if parental sleeping-in might be at fault — rather than intoxication itself — the authors also checked to see what happens during the autumn shift to daylight savings, when many sleep later because an hour has been added to the day. There was no rise in SIDS, Phillips said.

The study authors acknowledge that their data did not provide enough detailed information about each SIDS case for a cause and effect to be drawn. Nevertheless, the findings are a good reminder that precautions should be made before parents go out to celebrate this New Year’s Eve: a designated sitter is always a good idea, for example. “We know that when people are under the influence of alcohol their judgments are impaired and they are not as good at performing tasks. This would include caretaking,” Phillips said.