NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Sleep-related accidents are a leading cause of death of Tennessee children, and infants are the most vulnerable.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, in 2015, 890 children died before their 18th birthday, and 142 of those children were infants who died in unsafe sleep environments.
Dr. Michael Warren, the Tennessee Department of Health’s Deputy Commissioner for Population, says Tennessee’s infant mortality rate is among the worst in the country. In other words, Tennessee’s babies die at higher rates than almost any other state. Because of this, the department is aggressively trying to try to spread the word to parents about how and where infants should sleep in order to avoid accidental death.
“We’ve really tried to simplify the safe sleep message, and we focus on the ABCs of safe sleep. So if parents can remember ABC, they’ll remember everything that they need to know,” explained Dr. Warren.
The “A” stands for “alone,” meaning the baby should sleep alone and not in the same bed with someone else. Sleeping in the same bed with an infant is often called co-sleeping or bed-sharing.
“We hear tragic stories all the time in Tennessee of families who brought the baby into the bed with them thinking that would soothe the baby, and they were really tired, and they wake up, and they’ve rolled on top of that baby,” said Dr. Warren.
The “B” stands for “back,” meaning infants should sleep on their back and not on their stomach or side.
The “C” stands for “crib.” Dr. Warren said infants should sleep in a crib or bassinet but not on a sofa or chair.
“Typically, those surfaces aren’t always the firmest, so the baby’s face may become pressed against a cushion or back of a couch or chair, or the arm of a couch or a chair, and it blocks there airway,” Dr. Warren explained.
He also warns against having anything in the baby’s crib, saying there should be no blankets, pillows, bumpers or toys.
“When babies are very young, they don’t have strong head and neck muscles and so if their face becomes blocked by a pillow, by a blanket, even a very soft bedding surface, they may not be able to lift their head. So, they can actually suffocate,” said Dr. Warren.
Some states including Alabama, New Jersey, and Ohio, have begun supplying specially-made cardboard boxes to new mothers, to provide a safe space for infants to sleep.
The so-called “baby boxes” come with a firm mattress and a tight-fitting sheet that experts say are safe for infants.
Dr. Warren says Tennessee has purchased 500 of the boxes and begun a pilot program, providing them to some new parents.
For more information and facts about safe sleep, click here.