Media Advisory

State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Rick Scott

David E. Wilkins

March 5, 2012
John Harrell, (904) 723-5470/(904) 233-7792
Following Four Infant Deaths In The Past Two Months, DCF Urges Parents To Use Safe Sleep Precautions
~ Never Sleep With Your Baby In The Same Bed, Avoid Putting Too Many Items In Your Baby's Crib ~

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. – Four infants have died in the past two months in Northeast Florida due to reasons that the Department of Children and Families feels were most likely preventable.

"We need to educate parents and caregivers in our community so that no other children are lost," said David Abramowitz, Northeast Regional Director for DCF.

Unsafe sleep practices may have contributed to the deaths of these four infants.

  • A one-month-old boy in Jacksonville died after sleeping in a bed next to his mother. When she woke up, she found that he was unresponsive.
  • A four-month-old boy in Clay County died after being put to sleep face down on a blanket rolled up as a pillow. He had also been covered up with another blanket.
  • A nine-week-old girl in Alachua County died after sleeping on an adult bed. She was surrounded by pillows as she lay down on her stomach.
  • A two-month-old boy in Volusia County died after falling asleep in a bed with a babysitter.

The Florida Department of Children and Families is investigating all of these cases. One hundred twenty-nine babies' deaths in Northeast Florida over a recent three year period were related to unsafe sleep practices, according to the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition.

To prevent infant deaths, many experts recommend the ABC's of Safe Sleep: that babies sleep safest Alone, on their Backs, and in Cribs. In its study of local infant deaths, the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition found that three of the biggest risk factors are infants who slept in the same bed with an adult, slept on their sides, and slept on an adult bed or unsafe surface.

- Sleeping Alone: The controversial practice of "cosleeping," has become more common recently. Many parents believe that cosleeping creates a bond among parent and child. However, cosleeping can kill babies if the sleeping parent accidentally rolls over onto the baby. Healthy Families Florida recommends that babies never sleep with an adult or another child.

Instead of having the baby sleep in the same bed, parents could have the infant sleep in the same room on a portable crib or bassinet. Additionally, parents should not put anything in their baby's bed, including pillows, comforters, or stuffed animals. These items are not safe for sleeping babies.

- Sleeping on Their Backs: The American Academy of Pediatrics says that placing infants on their backs offers the lowest risk for sleep-related deaths.

- Sleeping In Cribs: More studies show that babies sleep best in cribs. Unsafe bed surfaces were the leading risk factor associated with sleep-related deaths in Northeast Florida. If parents cannot afford to buy a crib, they can purchase bassinets or Pack 'n Plays, which are significantly cheaper. Babies should never sleep in an adult bed, couch, air mattress or anything not made for them to sleep in. The risk of suffocation among infants who sleep in adult beds is 40 times higher than the risk of suffocation in cribs.

It is best to use a one piece sleeper instead of a blanket. If you must use a blanket, use a light one.

"If you have a neighbor with a new baby, please go see them and explain to them the dangers of allowing the baby to sleep in bed with them," said Abramowitz. "We urge people to consistently tell them the same message. At the Department of Children and Families, our first priority is child safety. We urge the community to make sure parents know about safe and unsafe sleeping practices."