Dauphin County leaders and area hospitals launch campaign combating bedtime practices that kill at least one infant annually in county
HARRISBURG, PA (November 15, 2017) – Since 2005, 31 infants have died from sleep-related causes in Dauphin County, including some that were tragic accidents that were avoidable by following a few simple guidelines to avoid accidental suffocation.
In response, the Dauphin County Commissioners, District Attorney's office, Coroner and Children and Youth Services are teaming up with area medical providers to educate parents, caregivers and the public about the safe way to put infants to bed and lower the chance of suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This announcement will mark the beginning of a long-term campaign to raise awareness about the ABCs:
· Alone: Share your room – not your bed. Your baby needs to sleep alone for his or her safety
· Back: Place your baby on his or her back in a safety-approved crib with a firm mattress. Do this even for the shortest nap.
· Crib: Your baby should sleep by himself or herself, meaning no bedding, bumpers, stuffed animals or anything else that could suffocate your baby.
“I’m a parent and I know that it’s natural to want to take your newborn baby into your arms as you go to sleep – but this can lead to tragedy,’’ said Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III, who oversees the county’s Human Services. “Not only can a baby suffocate, but we’ve seen head injuries and broken bones caused by a baby falling out of bed or from a dozing caretaker’s arms.’’
As part of the campaign, which includes Penn State Children’s Hospital and UPMC Pinnacle, a video is being produced that will be distributed to doctors’ offices. More information is also available on the campaign’s website, www.DauphinCounty.org/SafeSleep
Every year at least one baby dies in Dauphin County as a result of unsafe sleeping conditions, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Sean M. McCormack. “I ask the question, if you could do something to save that baby, wouldn't you do it? The ABCs of Safe Sleep will, without a doubt, save the life of that baby. That is what this campaign is all about.’’
About 3,700 infants die in the U.S. every year from sleep-related causes. Making sure your baby is safely put to sleep on their back and in their own crib – uncluttered by toys, pillows, blankets, etc. – reduces the chance of injury or death by 50 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We have known for many years about the risk factors that contribute to an unsafe sleep environment, which unfortunately can lead to healthy babies dying by suffocation,’’ said Dr. Erich Batra, a pediatrician at Penn State Children’s Hospital.
“It is a true tragedy when we see a healthy baby die a preventable suffocation death from unsafe sleep and a parent says, ‘no one ever told me it wasn’t safe for me to sleep with my baby,’” Batra said.
“It can be hard to convince people of the danger, especially since growing up many of us probably saw our brothers and sisters asleep in their crib with blankets and toys,’’ said board Chairman Jeff Haste. “Changing long-held beliefs about how to do something is tough, but in this case, it can literally save a life.’’
“Today nobody thinks twice about using a car seat for their baby and this is the same thing,’’ said Commissioner Mike Pries. “I hope parents and caretakers take the time to read these simple ABCs of safe sleep so we can avoid the heartache these accidents bring.’’
Coroner Graham Hetrick urged parents to not only follow the guidelines but make sure babysitters, daycares and anyone else looking after their baby follow safe sleep precautions.
“I ask parents not to hesitate to make sure anyone looking after their baby knows the ABCs of safe sleep and how important this is,’’ Hetrick said. “I’ve had to investigate these cases and there are few things worse than having to tell a parent they unwittingly contributed to their child’s death. Anything we can do to spare families this pain and guilt need to be done.’’
This effort stemmed from findings of the Dauphin County Child Death Review Team, a multidisciplinary group of professionals who come together to review child deaths to prevent future injury and loss of life.