Rise In Sudden Infant Deaths Prompts Warnings To Parents
Cases of infants dying in their sleep are on the increase nationally. The top law enforcement officer in one western Massachusetts county is joining with public health officials to urge new parents to follow the guidance for proper sleeping arrangements for children under 12 months.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said he was alarmed to find that through the first half of the year there had been six cases where infants died from asphyxiation in their sleep – a number that matches the yearly average for sudden infant deaths in the county.
"I want to emphasis how important this is to protect our infants with this advisory, so I urge expecting parents and new parents to please pay attention to this," said Gulluni.
The cases prompted Gulluni to join with doctors at Baystate Children’s Hospital to put out a warning along with guidance to parents of newborns.
Investigators with the DA’s office were required by law to investigate each case because it is considered an unattended death.
"These investigations are especially tragic and these cases do not at this point involve any criminal activity, said Gulluni.
He would not discuss any of the recent cases of sudden infant death in detail, but suggested each involved parents taking their babies into bed with them where the baby accidentally suffocates. He said the tragedies cut across socio-economic lines.
By the time an infant is discovered unresponsive in bed there is usually little that can be done to revive the baby, according to Dr. Ian Goodman, a pediatric emergency doctor.
"The best treatment is prevention," said Goodman.
Dr. Andrew Balder, a pediatrician and medical director at Baystate Mason Square Neighborhood Health Center, urged parents to know the “ABC’s” of safe-sleeping for infants. He explained it means that babies should always sleep alone, on their back, in a crib with a firm mattress and no stuffed animals. The crib should be near the parent’s bed.
" That is the safest way to put a child to sleep, but it is a challenge for many, but one we can overcome." Balder said.
Although new parents are usually counseled in the hospital about safe sleeping practices before they go home with their newborn, the information does not always sink in.
" Messages for change almost have to be continual and we have to figure out how to do that," said Balder.
Balder cited a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found social media to be an effective way to communicate the safe sleeping message to new parents.
" I am not a social media guy, but ( Facebook and texting) can be used to make the message frequent, motivational, re-enforcing, and not punitive," said Balder.
In 2015, there were roughly 3,700 sudden infant deaths nationally, with 900 blamed on accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed, according to the National Centers For Disease Control.