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Study Finds Fewer Unsafe Sleeping Deaths for Infants in Arkansas

Public health experts say the safest way for a baby to sleep is alone, on its back, and in a crib. (Pixabay)
Public health experts say the safest way for a baby to sleep is alone, on its back, and in a crib. (Pixabay)
November 8, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Public health officials say far fewer Arkansas children died from unsafe sleeping environments or sudden infant death syndrome in the past year.

A new report by the Arkansas Department of Human Services shows that child deaths from suffocation or other injuries while sleeping dropped 62 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Dr. Mary Aitken, director of the Injury Prevention Center at Arkansas Children's Hospital, says state officials and other advocates have worked in recent years to teach new parents the ABCs of putting infants down to sleep – alone, on their backs and in a crib.

"They expanded their definition of a safe sleep environment to include having not just the baby be on its back, but also having the baby be alone, not sleeping in an adult bed,” she points out. “They recommended instead that the baby sleep in its own bassinet or crib."

Aitken says the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that babies sleep without blankets, stuffed animals or other objects in their crib that could cause them to suffocate.

She says sometimes well-meaning adults or grandparents give young parents outdated or improper advice on the best way for an infant to sleep.

Aitken adds that it often seems counter intuitive to new parents to put their infants in a crib by themselves when there is a warm, inviting bed for them to sleep in.

"There's a lot of information out there that goes against this,” she points out. “You see advertising with a big, decked-out bed with lots of cushions and things in the bed to make it attractive, but the rule to be safest for the baby is to decorate the room, not the crib."

Aitken adds that often, low-income families don't have the information or the resources to provide a safe sleeping situation.

"We're always looking for a way to make sure that parents have the information they need so they are educated about what the best practices that we understand now are – and that if there are barriers, that there are resources in communities to get them a safe place to put their baby," she states.

The study also tracks several other causes of death among Arkansas children, including medical conditions, injuries, vehicle accidents, drownings, guns and fires.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR