It's a terrible statistic, but one that should be mostly avoidable.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) shows that the rate of "accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed" (ASSB) has risen and remained steady for Michigan infants since the late 1990s.

The report released on Monday, Infant Safe Sleep in Michigan: A Comprehensive Look at Sleep-Related Deaths” marks the first time Michigan has compiled local and statewide infant sleep data into one document.

Michigan’s infant mortality rate is higher than the national average with 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to the national rate of 5.9 deaths in 2015. Sleep-related infant deaths is a major contributor in Michigan having caused the death of 159 infants in 2015.

The way infant deaths are recorded continues to evolve, making comparisons difficult, but the methods to keep an infant safe remain the same. It's important to understand unsafe sleep conditions and how they lead to accidental suffocation and strangulation in order to prevent future accidents.

  • Suffocation and strangulation can occur on non-bed surfaces including chairs and couches.
  • Suffocation can occur when an infant is placed on non-firm surfaces including water beds, pillow-top mattresses, and blankets. The infant’s face can become pressed against the soft surface or bedding can cover their face.
  • Strangulation can occur when an object, such as a baby monitor cord or a blanket, is wrapped around an infant’s neck.
  • Suffocation can occur when another person, or part of another person’s body, rolls on top of or against an infant while sleeping.
  • Wedging or entrapment can lead to death when an infant is wedged between two objects, possibly a mattress and a wall or between couch cushions.

Advice from the MDHHS for a safe sleeping environment:

  • Babies should sleep on their back. An average of 80 percent of babies in Michigan sleep primarily on their back. It's a number that continues to grow, but it is not high enough. 11 percent of infants still sleep on their stomach and 10 percent sleep on their side. From 2010 - 2015, around 55 percent of Michigan infants who died from sleep-related causes were found on their side or stomach.
  • Infants should be placed on a firm mattress covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding or soft objects.
  • Infants should sleep in their parents’ room close to their parents’ bed on a separate sleep surface until they are at least six months old.
  • Infants should not sleep on couches or armchairs.
  • Bumper pads should not be used. They have caused deaths of suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation in beds.