Our county lost 99 babies before their first birthday in 2015. This means that our provisional 2015 infant mortality rate continues a multi-year trend of slowly improving, but stubbornly high rates. Since 2011, 9.3 Hamilton County babies have died for every 1,000 born. These recent years represent historic lows for Hamilton County with more than 20 fewer babies dying each year compared to the past decade. However, our rate of infant death is still far higher than the national average of 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.

IMR Rate Chart

The three leading causes of infant death in Hamilton County from 2011-2015 were preterm birth, birth defects and sleep related deaths. In 2015, preterm birth rates improved, but at the same time we lost more babies to birth defects and saw a discouraging reversal of our 2014 record low rate of infant sleep deaths.

TREND 1: Preterm birth, the leading cause of infant death, fell to its lowest rate in more than a decade at 10.6%. That’s 55 fewer babies born dangerously early in 2015 compared to the previous 5 years. Short pregnancy spacing and maternal smoking, some of the key causes of preterm birth also decreased in 2015.

Preterm Birth Rate Chart

TREND 2: Hamilton County saw a small increase in the number of babies who died from birth defects compared to the 2011-2014 average.  From 2011-2014, Hamilton County lost an average of 16 babies to fatal birth defects. In 2015, we lost 20 babies to this cause. If we were at the national average, we would lose 11 babies to birth defects each year. Fatal cardiac anomalies have been the leading defect that contributes to infant death in Hamilton County.

TREND 3: Sleep-related infant deaths dropped sharply in 2014, but rose again in 2015.  The biggest change in the past year was a steep rise in the number of sleep-related infant deaths, which doubled in 2015, after having fallen to an all-time low of just 7 in 2014. Babies sleep safest Alone, on their Back and in a Crib. When babies sleep on their stomach or share a bed with an adult, they are at increased risk of dying in their sleep.

Sleep Related Deaths New

The previous 2014 improvement coincided with 28 separate but aligned local initatives promoting safe sleep for infants. “We are committed to redoubling our efforts and repeating the success of 2014,” said Hamilton County Commissioner and Cradle Cincinnati Co-Chair Todd Portune. “Our work is not done until every new family knows and practices infant safe sleep standards.”


In June of 2013, dozens of partners pulled together under the banner of Cradle Cincinnati to align around infant mortality reduction. Thanks to the work of these partners, every metric that the group is focused on is seeing dramatic improvement since the start of the partnership, leading to an overall drop in infant deaths.

Two Year Trends

Our full report is available here.