The final infant mortality rate in the United States for 2009 was 6.39 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the third leading cause of infant death for 2009 and the first leading cause of death among infants ages 1–12 months. A total of 2,226 SIDS deaths occurred in 2009.*
The U.S. SIDS rate has declined significantly since the Back-to-Sleep Campaign was launched in 1994, with declines occurring in large part during the first several years of the campaign. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the decline in SIDS since 1999 can be explained by increasing rates in sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), which includes deaths attributed to suffocation. In addition, terminology related to sudden infant death is not uniform in application. The SUID Initiative is an effort to improve inaccurate classifications of infant deaths. For more information, see CDC's Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Initiative and Training Materials
* From the CDC vital statistics mortality file; the total number of SIDS deaths reported in the 2009 period linked birth/infant death data set is 2,231
Chart 1. Infant Mortality* and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, 1983–-2009
* Infant mortality includes deaths from birth to age 1, as distinguished from posteonatal mortality (reported in Table 3), which includes deaths from age 1 month to age 1 year.
The SIDS rate remains significantly higher among certain racial and ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic Blacks and American Indian/Alaska Natives (National Center for Health Statistics' (NCHS) linked birth/infant death data. See Chart 2 below.
More information on these disparities is found in Infant Mortality Statistics from the 2009 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Set, which notes that in 2009 the infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic black women was 12.40 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, 2.8 times greater than the lowest rate of 4.40 for infants of Asian or Pacific Islander mothers. Rates were also higher for infants of American Indian or Alaska Native (8.47) and Puerto Rican (7.18) mothers.
Chart 2. SIDS Deaths by Race and Ethnicity, 1995–2009
* All white for 1995 and 1996; Non-Hispanic white for the period 1997–2009. ** All black for 1995-2001; Non-Hispanic black for the period 2002–2009. *** Includes Alaska Natives for period 1999–2009.
Compared to rates in other developed countries, the U.S. SIDS rate remains high. For example, in 2005, the U.S. rate ranked second highest (after New Zealand) among 13 countries in a research study by Fern Hauck and Kawai Tanabe. The lowest SIDS rates among these countries were in the Netherlands and Japan.
It is important to note that the age of inclusion for SIDS varies from country to country, with some countries defining SIDS as occurring from age 1 week to age 1 year, while others use a range from birth to age 1 year or another range. The authors state that it is likely to be a small effect because the number of SIDS deaths occurring in the first week of life and after age 1 year are very small.
Since SUID rates are not provided in these research findings, it is also unclear whether those rates may have increased as the SIDS rates declined (as has happened in the United States in recent years).
The decline in the SIDS rate in all of these countries is reflected in the overall decline in postneonatal mortality, and, as with the United States, higher rates of these declines occurred earlier in the risk-reduction campaigns in those respective countries.
Chart 3. International SIDS Rates, Ordered from Lowest to Highest SIDS Rate in 2005
For additional statistics on international infant mortality and SIDS, see the International Society for the Study and Prevention of Perinatal and Infant Death.
Infant Mortality Statistics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011. Quick stats: Infant mortality rates by mother’s place of birth and race/ethnicity—United States, 2007. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Recommendations and Reports 60(26):891.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2010. Health Data Interactive. Select “Mortality and Life Expectancy” to view tables of data from 2001 to 2009.
Heisler EJ. 2012. The U.S. infant mortality rate: International comparisons, underlying factors, and federal programs. Congressional Research Service.
Heron M. 2010. Deaths: Leading causes for 2006. National Vital Statistics Reports 58(14):1–100.
MacDorman MF, Kimeyer S. 2009. The challenge of fetal mortality. NCHS Data Brief (16)1–8.
MacDorman MF, Kimeyer S. 2009. Fetal and perinatal mortality, United States, 2005. National Vital Statistics Reports 57(8):1–19.
MacDorman MF, Mathews MS. 2009. Behind international ranking of infant mortality: How the United States compares with Europe. NCHS Data Brief (23)1–8.
MacDorman MF, Mathews TJ. 2008. Recent trends in infant mortality in the United States. NCHS Data Brief (9)1–8.
MacDorman MF, Mathews TJ. 2011. Understanding racial and ethnic disparities in U.S. infant mortality rates. NCHS Data Brief (74)1–8.
Mathews TJ, MacDorman MF. 2013. Infant mortality statistics from the 2009 period linked birth/infant death data set. National Vital Statistics Reports 61(8):1–46.
Xu J, Kochanek KD, Murphy SL, Tejada-Vera B. 2012. Deaths: Final data for 2009. National Vital Statistics Reports 60(3):1–106.
Statistics on Other Topics
First Candle; Sudden and Unexpected Infant/Child Death and Pregnancy Loss Centers 2010. Program Manual and Trainer’s Guide. Research and statistical resources.
March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center. Peristats. Website providing free access to national, state, county, and city maternal and infant health data.
National Child Death Review. N.d. SUDC fact sheet for NCDR. Fact sheet providing information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reported incidence of Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC).
National Infant Sleep Position Study (NISP). N.d. Sleep position summary data (1992–2008) for all races and ethnic groups for NISP, developed by National Institute for Child Health and Human Development to examine sleep practices and factors associated with adherence to back-to-sleep recommendations.
Ventura SJ, Curtain MA, Abma JC. 2012. Estimated pregnancy rates and rates of pregnancy outcomes for the United States, 1990–2008. National Vital Statistics Reports 60(7):1–21.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2012. Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hauck F, Tanabe K. 2008. International trends in sudden infant death syndrome stabilization of rates requires further action. Pediatrics 122(3):660–666.
MacDorman MF, Kimeyer SE, Wilson EW. 2012. Fetal and perinatal mortality, United States, 2006. National Vital Statistics Reports 60(8):1–23.
Updated February 2013