Health care professionals need to do more to educate parents, grandparents, and other relatives who assist new mothers in child care of current recommendations and discuss the risks and benefits of their choices for infant sleeping practices.
No one wants to think or talk about babies dying, but it is a reality of life. When considering the overall number of live births each year, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) remains the leading cause of death in the United States among infants between one month and one year of age. Over 5,000 babies in the United States die of SIDS yearly. SIDS is more common in boys than girls, (60-to-40 percent male-to-female ratio) and most deaths occur during the fall, winter, and early spring months.
Statistics released by the National Vital Statistics System (NCHS) indicate that Massachusetts has the lowest rate of SIDS deaths in the United States at 21 deaths per 100,000 live births. Most deaths of infants have something to do with sleeping practice.
When I was a young mother, it was common practice to lay your baby on his/her stomach while taking a nap. Today, one of the leading causes of SIDS is a baby who sleeps on its stomach rather than its back. Other high risk factors are co-sleeping, infants sharing the motherâ€™s sleep space, stuffed animals in the crib; airway obstruction, no prenatal care, low birth weight, male gender, and exposure to cigarette smoke and the strong smell of alcoholic beverages.
Normally, babiesâ€™ sense when they do not get enough air and the brain triggers them to wake from sleep and cry. They cannot say, â€œI canâ€™t breathe or you are too heavy, get off of me.â€ The only thing that they can do is cry â€“ the cry that is never heard.
Since November of 2008, District B-3 officers have responded to four death investigation calls for infants under the age of six months.
November 26, 5:35 a.m.
Officers responded to Druid Street for a death investigation of a five-month old girl. The babyâ€™s mother stated to officers that she checked on the baby at approximately 1 a.m.; she was asleep and appeared to be doing well. At 5:35 a.m., the mother discovered her daughterâ€™s lifeless, discolored body lying in the bed. The grandmother attempted to perform CPR with negative results. The baby was born prematurely and had a history of medical conditions.
May 1, 8:19 a.m.
Officers responded to Balsam Street for a cardiac arrest of a nine-week-old male infant. The mother stated to officers that the infant had cardiac disorder and pulmonary artery stenosis at birth. He was pronounced dead at 9:15 a.m.
July 4, 5:33 a.m.
Officers responded to Ames Street for a death investigation. Upon arrival, the officers were redirected to Boston Medical Center to speak with the mother of the victim. The mother stated to officers that her son was awake at 11 p.m., on July 3. At around 5:19 a.m. on July 4, the baby was non- responsive. The infant was pronounced dead at 5:42 a.m. He was twelve days old.
September 9, 6:41 a.m.
An officer responded to Wildwood Street for a death investigation. Upon arrival, the officer observed an infant being transported to Carney Hospital by the Emergency Medical Services. The infant was pronounced dead at 7:17 a.m. The mother stated to officers that the baby was sleeping in a playpen. It was later revealed by the mother that the baby was sharing the bed with her. The infant female was six weeks old.
New parents often want to be close to their babies at night, but sharing a bed may put your baby at risk of suffocation. Let your baby sleep in its crib but keep the crib close enough to know when your baby needs you. The crib, with a firm mattress, should conform to the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Call toll free at: 1-800-638-2772. One other thought: Be sure to give your baby plenty of time on its tummy when he or she is awake and an adult is watching. This will help the babyâ€™s neck and shoulder muscles get stronger.