Tonawanda News

February 1, 2014

Infant deaths prompt health department warning

Staff reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — After six infants in Erie County died in January due to unsafe sleeping arrangements — three during the past week alone — the commissioner of health has issued a statement this week warning parents of the dangers of “cosleeping” and other practices.

“Parents and caregivers need to be aware of the tremendous risks of having an infant sleep with another individual or in a ‘face-down’ or prone position,” Dr. Gale Burstein, the Erie County commissioner of health, said in a press release. “In the six deaths this January, three of the infants died while in an adult’s bed with two of those three babies found face down. 

“Two of the other deaths occurred when infants suffocated in cribs that contained an excessive amount of blankets. Infants cannot roll over or uncover blankets from their face, placing them at great risk of suffocation,” Burstein said.

The bitter temperatures in the area this winter may have contributed to the problem, leading to children sleeping with adults or others for warmth or given blankets before they’re capable of sleeping with them safely, the release said. Other situations about which parents were warned include:

• Placing an infant to sleep on soft bedding or other surfaces;

• Sleeping with a person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, whether illegal or legal, or someone who is “overly exhausted” and may not be able to wake up if they roll over on the infant;

• Sharing a bed with a person who is obese, which increasing the danger of an infant being smothered.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Academy of Pediatrics both warn parents not to place infants to sleep in adult beds. The AAP recommends infants sleep on their backs, using a firm surface and avoidance of soft bedding, overheating and exposure to tobacco smoke, alcohol and drugs. 

“These are heartbreaking accidents,” Burstein said. “We hope by bringing these tragedies to the attention of Erie County parents and caregivers that they will heed our recommendations and keep their infants safe.”

Eighth deaths due to similar causes were recorded in 2013.