TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Children and Families have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of infants sleeping with parents or other siblings, saying the number of fatalities is way too high.
As part of the campaign, the sheriff’s office is giving away safe cribs to parents with infants.
Statewide statistics indicate nearly a dozen children a month are dying because of unsafe sleeping conditions. The Department of Children and Families says 143 infants have died that way in Florida so far this year.
In Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City, a dozen babies died between Jan. 1 and Nov. 31 this year as a result of unsafe sleeping conditions, deputies said. In 2012, the number was 17.
The deaths were directly attributed to babies sleeping with parents, siblings or in unsafe bedding, deputies said. The children who died ranged in age from 2 to 8 months.
The numbers may fluctuate from year to year, but co-sleeping consistently remains the leading cause of infant deaths, said sheriff’s Maj. Robert Bullara who heads Child Protective Investigation Division.
Such tragedies can be avoided, Bullara said. One way, he said, is giving away safe cribs to people who don’t have one or can’t afford one.
“If we can save a child,” he said, “we’re going to take care of that.”
The sheriff’s office is offering safe, portable cribs to the public. The cribs are free but parents have to show up to get them; they aren’t being given to friends or relatives.
Anyone needing a safe crib is asked to call the department at (813) 627-2039. So far, 10 people have asked about the cribs and the department has given away four or five.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should sleep alone, on their backs and in a crib. The crib also should be cleared of all pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, toys and bumpers. Babies, the academy said, are not ready for fluffy blankets and soft stuffed animals as newborns can’t move their heads away from such things and could suffocate if their faces are pressed against them.
The academy said that babies who sleep with their parents are 40 percent more likely to die at night.
Still, lots of parents of newborns sleep with their infant.
According to a paper published by the academy a few years ago, the main reasons for sharing a bed with an infant are to calm a fussy baby, facilitate breast feeding and help the infant and mother sleep better.
The paper said 42 percent of parents shared the bed with an infant at 2 weeks; 34 percent at 3 months and 27 percent at 12 months.
Here are some tips on how to keeep your baby safe at night:
* Avoid cute pillows, blankets, bumper pads and toys in the crib; they can cause suffocation.
* Sleep aids, such as wedges and sleep positioners actually can increase the risk of infant death due to suffocation because, if the infant shifts, the soft objects can trap the baby in a position where he or she cannot breathe.
* Sleeping with your infant poses a big risk. An adult can roll over and onto a baby and smother the infant without even knowing it.
* Each baby should have his or her own crib. Even sleeping with other infants increases the risk of suffocation.
* Adult beds, air mattresses, bean bags, reclining chairs and sofas are not made for babies and can wedge and smother a baby.
Source: Florida Department of Children and Families