Despite scary habit, Asian Indians have fewest sudden infant deaths
Asian Indian families in New Jersey are more likely to share a bed with their baby, which is a risk factor for Sudden Unexpected Infant Death. But the population also posts the lowest rates of these deaths in the state.
The paradoxical findings were published this summer in the journal New Jersey Pediatrics. The study looked at the births of well over 80,000 New Jersey-born Asian Indians from 2000 to 2015, and paired them with survey and focus-group data related to their safe sleep practices.
"This study does not therefore conclude that bed sharing is not a risk factor," said lead author Barbara Ostfeld. "What it does demonstrate is that this is a population with some important compensatory qualities that we will be further exploring."
Asian Indians, Ostfeld said, post the highest rate of placing babies to sleep on their backs. The back-to-sleep position is considered one of the leading research findings to support infant safety over the last 40 years of pediatric research.
The ethnic group also features the lowest rates of social determinants that can worsen the risk of bed sharing, she said. Indian-Americans smoke and drink alcohol less than other populations, for example.
"One thing we have been learning is that in the Asian Indian population, grandparents play a vital role in helping the families 24/7, and that may relieve some of the fatigue that actually increases the adverse consequences of bed sharing," Ostfeld added.
Over a 15-year period, New Jersey infants of foreign-born Asian Indian mothers had a SUID rate of 0.14 per 1,000 live births, the study finds. The 15-year average was a perfect 0 for infants of U.S.-born Asian Indian mothers, who are less likely to bed share than those born abroad.
When considering every baby born in New Jersey from 2000 to 2015, the SUID rate was 0.6 per 1,000 live births.
The rate applies to the sudden and unexpected death of a baby less than 1 year old in which the cause was not obvious before investigation.