In New Jersey, the tragedy of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) happens less among infants whose mothers were born in India than among any other sector of the population. From 2000 to 2015, the SUID rate for babies whose mothers were born in India was 0.14 deaths per 1,000 live births. During the same period, SUID was recorded at a rate of 0.4 in the white population, 0.5 among Hispanics and 1.6 in the black population. The figures come from a Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences study on sudden infant deaths.
Bed-sharing is flagged by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a high-risk factor in SUID — which includes sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, and ill-defined and unknown causes in children under one year old. The study’s lead author Barbara Ostfeld, a professor of pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, notes that “Conditions that substantially increase the risk of SUID while bed-sharing include smoking, alcohol use and maternal fatigue.”
Paradoxically, the low rate of SUID among Indian-Americans is juxtaposed with the fact that they have the highest rate of bed-sharing with their babies among ethnic groups in New Jersey. Said Ostfeld, “Indian-Americans smoke and use alcohol less than other populations. In addition, grandparents tend to be very active in childcare, which reduces maternal fatigue. Apart from bed-sharing, poverty also increases the risk of SUID, and Indian-Americans have higher incomes.”