Indian American babies suffer the lowest rate of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, despite the community’s tradition of putting babies in the same bed as parents, summates a new Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences study.

The study, co-authored by Barbara Ostfeld, Thomas Hegyi and Sunanda Gaur at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, was published in the journal New Jersey Pediatrics.

The practice of putting a baby in the same bed as parents — known as bed sharing — is widely believed to be a prevalent factor in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers bed-sharing to be 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 researchers looked at the mortality rates of 83,000 New Jerse-born Indian American babies over a 15-year period: From 2000 to 2015, infants of foreign-born mothers of Asian-Indian heritage had a SUID rate of 0.14 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 0.4 in white, 0.5 in Hispanic and 1.6 in black populations.

Moreover, no incidence of SUID occurred in households of U.S.-born parents of Indian heritage. Ninety-seven percent of the surveyed American-born mothers of Asian-Indian heritage reported using a crib, compared to 69 percent of those who were foreign-born, according to the survey.

“There is strong clinical information on the risks associated with bed-sharing,” said lead author Barbara Ostfeld, in a statement announcing the findings. “Our intent was to discover more about this little-researched demographic breakdown, so we can better understand the risk factors for SUID in all groups and create culturally sensitive health messaging.”

“Conditions that substantially increase the risk of SUID while bed-sharing include smoking, alcohol use and maternal fatigue,” said Ostfeld, a professor of pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

“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,” she said.

Avoiding bed-sharing is associated with a lower rate of SUID even in already low-risk groups, said Ostfeld.

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