On their back, in a crib, alone

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 30, 2015

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METRO DETROIT — Every three days, a baby in Michigan dies from an unsafe sleep environment.


September is Safe Sleep Awareness Month, and initial data for 2015 indicates that the number of infants who are believed to have died because of suffocation is increasing, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.


In 2013, 142 babies in the state died because they were in unsafe sleeping places. Of those 142, approximately half were attributed to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, or ASSIB, said Dr. Irvin Kappy, service chief of pediatrics at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.


Though 2013 is the most recent year for which there is final data, preliminary data in 2014 and 2015 shows that the number of deaths has increased, according to a press release from the state of Michigan.


“Having a new baby can be an exhausting time for families. I urge parents to follow American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines,” Chief Medical Executive for the MDHHS Dr. Eden Wells said in a press release. “Babies should be placed on their backs in their own safe space, such as in a crib, bassinet or pack-and-play in the room where the parent sleeps, without blankets or stuffed animals.”


Kappy said he still comes across parents who, out of convenience, will lay an infant down next to them on the bed, thinking the infant will be safe. Nursing mothers, because of exhaustion, will do this, he added. However, the infant is not safe in these instances. Parents or siblings can accidentally roll onto the infant, or infants can turn over on their stomach and suffocate.


“It’s always a horrible tragedy when an infant dies from suffocation or unexplained infant death, and this is for the most part preventable nowadays,” Kappy said. “These recommendations are just so important. It’s so tragic they’re at times ignored.”


Kappy said newborns should sleep on hard surfaces, and he recommends they be placed in a bassinet or a crib next to the bed. Infants should room share — different from bed sharing — during the first few weeks or months of their lives.


Infants should not sleep on soft surfaces such as  beds or couches, and parents should avoid placing soft objects — pillows, stuffed animals, bumpers and blankets — in the crib or bassinet. In lieu of blankets, infants can be placed in sleep sacks, Kappy said.


According to the March of Dimes, sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS — the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old — is the leading cause of death in babies between 1 month and 1 year old, and most cases happen in babies 2-4 months old. Ninety percent of deaths occur before 6 months of age, Kappy said.


Since the American Academy of Pediatrics launched the Back to Sleep Campaign in 2003, Kappy said, the number of SIDS deaths has declined by over 50 percent in any country that has instituted the campaign.


“The reason for it is that it has decreased suffocation of infants lying on unsafe sleep surfaces,” Kappy said.


Infants are more likely to die from SIDS if they sleep on their stomach or on their side, sleep on pillows or soft surfaces, wear too many clothes or sleep in a room that is too hot, or bed share.


The American Pediatric Association recommends that infants be given a pacifier at nap and bedtime to help reduce the risk of SIDS, and breast-feeding may also help reduce the risk. The AAP does not, however, recommend using special mattresses or wedges marketed to reduce a baby’s risk of SIDS. 

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