Infant Deaths Related to Unsafe Sleep Continue

Infants continue to die in unsafe sleep environments, according to new statistics.

The Baby Safe Sleep Coalition, which includes law enforcement and health representatives, says 63 babies died in Monroe County between 2007 and 2012. In 17 percent of all infant deaths in Monroe County, unsafe sleep conditions were present. 

In 2013, there were at least 12 infant deaths, according to unofficial Rochester Police Department statistics.

The Baby Safe Sleep Coalition calls unsafe sleep the leading cause of preventable death among babies. In more than half of the deaths, the baby was co-sleeping with an adult. More than a quarter were not sleeping in a crib or bassinet, but were not cosleeping. Sixteen percent were sleeping in a crib with soft bedding. 

In 60 percent of cases, the babies are between 1 and 3 months old. Eighty-three percent of deaths occurred in the city. Only five percent of households where unsafe sleep was practiced in 2011 and 2012 did not have cribs.

Health officials used to classify these deaths as SIDS, but there's now a greater awareness of the risk factors posed by unsafe sleep. Babies cannot move their heads as easily as adults to catch a breath if they are trapped by blankets, pillows, or an adult body.

The Baby Safe Sleep Coalition made a video explaining the importance of safe sleep. It features two families who lost babies while cosleeping. 

"If you can prevent a child's death simply by putting a child to bed in a crib on their back without anything around them to obstruct their breathing, then why not? Why take the chance?" said Medical Examiner Dr. Caroline Dignan in the video.

"Riley was on her side and her face was turned into his side right here and her right arm was stuck underneath him, so I immediately just grabbed her and she was black and blue in the face. She was ice cold, so I started screaming," said a mother featured in the video. Her child died while sleeping in the arms of the father.

Police treat these deaths as tragedies, not criminal acts. Police and health officials have been trying to get the word out about safe sleep. They say parents should put babies to bed in cribs alone, on their backs, with no pillows, blankets, toys or bumpers. 

Educating the public is difficult because cosleeping is common and some people advocate cosleeping. Risk factors that make cosleeping more dangerous are alcohol and drug use, being overtired and being obese. 

Sgt. Mark Freese, Sue Van Strydonck and Dr. Elizabeth Murray were our guests on News 8 First at 4. Click on the video above to watch their interview with Rachel Barnhart. Watch the Baby Safe Sleep Coalition video below. 

Baby Safe Sleep: Healthy Babies Are Dying
Healthy infants are dying in unsafe sleep environments every day - deaths which are entirely preventable. This video shares the painful stories of loss of tw...

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