Moms' Drinking Linked to Infant Deaths

By Chrisanne Grise 02/27/13

Prenatal and postnatal drinking may cause one in six cases of SIDS, new research finds.

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One in six cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may be due to a mother’s drinking habits during or soon after pregnancy, a new study suggests. Researchers say these cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) may be caused either from alcohol exposure womb, or from being in a hazardous environment after birth. Based on data from 77,895 Australian women who gave birth between 1983 and 2005, researchers found that babies born to mothers who drank heavily were seven times more likely to die of SIDS, compared to those whose moms drank moderately or not at all. And for the mothers who reported drinking heavily the year after birth, their babies had a nine times higher risk of SIDS. "The results of this study indicate that maternal alcohol-use disorder increases the risk of SIDS and (infant deaths) through direct effects on the fetus and indirectly through environmental risk factors," write the researchers in the journal Pediatrics. Risk factors could range from general neglect, to a drunken parent falling asleep with the infant in bed, leading to accidental suffocation. About 4,500 infants die from SIDS every year in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "A child is a vulnerable creature and we really owe it to protect that child,” says David Phillips, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, who studies alcohol-related infant deaths. “It's not a trivial thing to be a parent."

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices,,, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.