Erie County Health Department officials say in the past week alone, three infants have died because of unsafe sleeping arrangements. So far this month, there have been six infant deaths and health officials say it is likely because of the cold temperatures.
Parents may be placing blankets over infants or having them sleep with a parent in an effort to keep them warm. In three of the six deaths, infants died while sleeping in an adult’s bed. Two were found face down. Two of the other deaths occurred in cribs where the infants suffocated due to an excessive amount of blankets.
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein wants parents to remember that infant should sleep on hard surfaces, instead of soft bedding or couches. She also says it’s very important for parents to remember when they are exhausted, not to sleep next to their infant. She says parents can accidentally roll onto their infants, and children less than 12 months old cannot pull themselves up.
“They are different causes of death, but they are all related to not having a patent airway and not being able to breathe,” Burstein said. “These deaths can be prevented. Number one, put your baby to sleep on the back. We call it ‘back to sleep,’ and its sleeping on the back. That way their face is uncovered, they won’t become suffocated.”
Before a baby even makes its way into this world, childbirth educator Lynn Stroehlein at Women and Children’s Hospital is helping parents choose safe sleeping practices.
“You figure these babies are going to put everything in their mouth once they’re able to so my crib was pretty much naked. I had the baby in the crib and nothing else in there,” she said.
Pediatrician Dr. Steven Lana says babies should always sleep on their backs, on a firm crib mattress. He strongly advises against sleeping with your baby.
“It happens, people do it, in some societies it’s quite the norm, but the danger is that you may roll over and suffocate your baby. I couldn’t live with myself if that ever happened to me,” he said.
Dr. Lana says it’s also important to check your carbon monoxide detector during these really cold months.
He says if you’re worried that your child will be cold, allow a baby to sleep with a cap on to keep them from losing heat through their heads. And an infant’s room should be kept around 70 degrees.
In all of 2013, only eight infant deaths were reported due to similar causes.