GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – A Greenville County Deputy Coroner is working to spread the word about the risk of infant death when children are put in unsafe sleep environments.
Kent Dill, a Deputy Coroner with the Greenville County Coroner’s Office, said, “One of the biggest issues that we face is the issue of unsafe sleep and infant mortality. It is the single biggest danger that we find for otherwise healthy infants during that period of time.”
Dill said over the past five years, 35 infants in Greenville County have died in unsafe sleep situations. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 3,000 babies die every year in the United States from sleep-related deaths. In many cases, the baby accidentally suffocates.
Kelli Scheibenhoffer, an OB Nurse Educator with Bon Secours St. Francis Health, explains how to prevent these accidents. “We’re going to place our babies on their back. We’re going to place them on a firm mattress. We’re going to place them on a mattress that has a fitted sheet, and we’re going to make sure there is nothing else in that sleep area.” Scheibenhoffer say this means no blankets, pillows, bumper pads, or toys should be in the crib with the baby. She says, “If parents are concerned that their infants will be cool, we recommend sleep sacks.”
Scheibenhoffer and Dill emphasize that babies should never share a bed with anyone or anything. Dill said, “When an adult lays down, on a typical mattress, beside an infant child, what you’re going to do is create a hill.” He said, “So sometime during the night, the chances of that child rolling down that hill and being found underneath the parent’s side or arm, is really really common.” He also says couches are too soft for babies to sleep on. “An adult bed or couch is usually too soft and fluffy and does not pose a very safe place for [infants] to sleep,” he said.
Scheibenhoffer says, “We do recommend that [parents] keep their babies in their rooms for that first six months, up to a year. So, we want them to co-room with their babies just not co-bed with their babies.” In other words, the child should be in the same room as the parents, but never the same bed.
Dill emphasized the toll a child’s death takes on parents. “The single biggest stressor for a couple is a death of a child. So, these are parents that dearly love their children, but they simply will cut a corner. But always afterwards, they would have done anything to change the outcome.”
Bon Secours is sponsoring a month-long campaign to stress safe sleep practices for infants. Newborns are given a onesie with a “This Side Up” graphic on the front to remind new parents of the importance of always having infants sleep on their backs. Additional information on specific safe sleep practices can be found in the links referenced below.
For information on safe sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, visit: https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-safe-sleep-recommendations-to-protect-against-sids.aspx
For information on Consumer Product Safety Commission-approved cribs, visit: https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/cribs
To submit a question for the Ask the Expert series, visit: https://www.wspa.com/ask-the-expert