The trend is troubling. Four infants dead in the span of a single year, victims of tragic accidents easily preventable, some at the hands of those most entrusted to care for their safety. Faced with the disturbing news, Weld County officials are taking steps to educate parents and caregivers, and stem the tide.
All of the deaths were the result of unsafe sleeping conditions when a parent or adult shared a bed with the infant. Soft bedding, blankets, or an adult accidentally rolling on top of the infant were causes of each the four deaths.
The ages of the infants ranged from 1 month to 4 months old. Suffocation is the leading cause of accidental death in U.S. infants ages 1 month to 1 year.
The Weld County Department of Public Health urges all parents with newborns and infants to follow the recommended guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): adults or other children should not share a bed with an infant while sleeping.
While parents may want to comfort or feed a baby in bed, the infant should be placed in a safety-approved crib, bassinet, or play crib for sleeping. The AAP recommends room-sharing with infants but not bed-sharing. Infants should be placed on their backs for sleeping, and the Health Department discourages putting pillows, quilts, comforters and other soft items under an infant or in a crib as these items may cause suffocation.
“Parents may want to make a crib look nice by adding pillows and stuffed animals,” said Dr. Mark Wallace, Health Department Director, “but these items can be dangerous for an infant who may get tangled in or under such items.”
“Every child death is a tragedy,” Director of Weld County Human Services’ Judy Griego said. “All of us in the community have a role to play in ensuring that children and infants are safe.”
Following the second infant suffocation death, Griego’s department provided Safe Sleep brochures to families during home visits. Today, the department’s prevention team members and case managers share the Safe Sleep information with families throughout the county. The department also initiated the Weld County Safe Sleep Campaign which will bring together agencies county-wide to help raise public awareness about safe-sleeping techniques for infants.
The Department of Public Health and Environment is currently reaching out to the health care community in much the same way. Through media releases and information sharing, Wallace’s team is raising awareness of infant suffocation death by distributing recommendations outlined by the AAP.
“Education on everyone’s part — doctors, nurses, parents, daycare providers — is crucial in reducing these tragic accidents,” said Wallace.
To learn more about ways to prevent infant suffocation deaths, visit www.weldhealth.org.