TAMPA, Fla. (March 28, 2018) – Unsafe sleep practices, including co-sleeping, continue to be the leading cause of preventable infant deaths in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. In 2017, 28 Tampa Bay-area infants died from unsafe sleep practices – the most since 2011.
These deaths most often involved suffocation from co-sleeping with a parent, sibling or caregiver. Nationally, more infants die in adult beds than anywhere else from unsafe sleep practices, and infants are 40 times more likely to die in an adult bed than in their own crib.
In a majority of deaths caused by unsafe sleep practices, a baby suffocated when an adult unintentionally rolled on top of them, or when soft bedding, such as a pillow or blanket, blocked their airway. Infants often can’t escape these dangerous positions because they lack the muscle control to move their necks. Pillow-top mattresses, comforters, fluffy pillows, and stuffed animals are a danger to infants in adult beds, as well as in cribs.
The number of infant deaths caused by unsafe sleep in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties increased from 2016, despite an increase in education campaigns about safe sleep practices in hospitals and parenting classes.
The Prevent Needless Deaths campaign is urging parents and caregivers of infants to learn about the risks of unsafe sleep, and implement and share safe sleep practices with family members and friends.
“Unsafe sleep deaths are 100 percent preventable,” said Kelley Parris, Executive Director of the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, one of the partner organizations in the Prevent Needless Deaths campaign. “Better communication of safe sleep practices is one way that we can prevent unintentional infant deaths in our community.”
The Prevent Needless Deaths campaign advises parents and caregivers to follow these safe sleep practices for infants:
1. Practice the ABCs of safe sleep. The safest way for infants to sleep is Alone on their Backs in a Crib. This minimizes the risk of the infant suffocating, especially if they have not yet developed neck muscle control.
2. Bring the crib into the parent or caregiver’s room. Sharing a room with a child offers almost all of the same benefits of sharing a bed, but without the risks. It’s recommended to bring the baby’s crib, or a smaller bassinet, into the parents’ room for the first year of the baby’s life.
3. Be prepared for naptime and bedtime away from home. If a child sleeps at someone else’s home, such as with grandparents or other caretakers, make sure they have the proper sleeping arrangements like a crib or pack-n-play with a fitted sheet. Do not use a blow-up mattress, which also poses a significant danger to infants.
4. Follow crib setup recommendations. A crib’s mattress should be firm and fit snugly inside the crib’s frame. Crib sheets should fit tightly around the mattress. A baby’s sleeping area should be free of blankets, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, sleep positioners and toys.
5. Learn from the past. As more information becomes available, parents and caregivers must let go of some outdated practices in order to provide children with the safest environment possible for sleeping. Habits about car seats and lead paint changed; it’s now time to change co-sleeping habits.
The campaign also aims to educate parents and caregivers on the other top causes of preventable infant deaths: drowning and abusive head trauma. In 2017 in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, 6 children under 6 years old died from drowning (in 2016 there were 5 deaths), and 2 children under 6 years old died from abusive head trauma (in 2016 there were 3 deaths).
To learn more, visit www.PreventNeedlessDeaths.com.
About Prevent Needless Deaths
Prevent Needless Deaths is an awareness campaign that aims to educate people in Hillsborough County on how to prevent needless deaths among children related to water safety, safe sleep practices and head trauma prevention. www.PreventNeedlessDeaths.com.