Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths in the United States


Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) refers to the sudden and unexpected death of an infant younger than one year of age. This infographic goes over the definition of SUID, the racial/ethnic differences in SUID rates, risk factors for SUID and provides resources on reducing SUID and promoting safe sleep.

Download a PDF of the infographic for printing

Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths in the United States

What is Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ([CDC], 2018), sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) refers to:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed
  • Other unknown causes during the first 12 months of life

Each year in the United States, approximately 3,500 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly. The frightening fact about SUID is that it can happen without warning and to infants who seem otherwise healthy.

Breakdown of SUID by cause in 2016

  • 42% deaths due to SIDS;
  • 24% deaths due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed; and
  • 34% deaths due to unknown causes

Racial/Ethnic Differences in SUID

SUID rates per 100,000 live births in American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) and black infants are more than twice those of white, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander (A/PI) infants.

SUID death rate per 100,000 live births in infants by race/ethnicity

  • American Indian/Alaska Native infants is 196.9,
  • Black infants is 177.3,
  • White infants is 84.5,
  • Hispanic infants is 51.7, and
  • Asian/Pacific Islander is 32.7

Risk Factors for SUID

A study based on the CDC surveillance project called PRAMS, the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (Bombard et al., 2018), found:

  • More than 1 in 5 mothers with a recent live birth placed their infant in a nonsupine sleep position (on side or stomach)
  • More than 1 in 3 mothers used at least one type of soft bedding
  • Nearly 2 in 3 mothers reported bed sharing with their infant

Known risk factors for SUID

  • Bed sharing - 61.4%
  • Soft Bedding - 38.5%
  • Infant in a nonsupine sleep position – 21.6%

Resources on Reducing SUID and Promoting Safe Sleep

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following practices to reduce SUID risk (Moon, 2016):

  • Supine (on back) sleep position
  • Firm sleep surface
  • Room sharing without co-sleeping or bed sharing
  • Sleep environment free of objects
  • Avoidance of pre and postnatal exposure to tobacco smoke

Sources and Info

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Sudden unexpected infant death and sudden infant death syndrome. Retrieved from

National Center for Health Statistics. (2018). Multiple Cause of Death Mortality Data. Hyattsville, MD.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Child and Adolescent Injury and Violence Prevention Resource Centers Cooperative Agreement (U49MC28422) for $5,000,000 with 0 percent financed with non-governmental sources. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.