A spike in sleeping-related infant deaths in a Maryland county has local health officials warning parents about unsafe sleeping practices.
There have been four undetermined infant deaths in Anne Arundel County since the beginning of the year and six others in the state.
“We are concerned that there is an increase in sudden unexplained infant deaths. We've had four in the first several months of the year compared to two in all of calendar-year 15, three in the previous year, and seven prior to that, and so this represents a definite increase,” said Dr. David Rose, Deputy Health Officer for the Anne Arundel County Department of Health.
Investigators have not yet determined the causes of death in those cases, but believe their sleeping situation may have had a role.
“In these cases we are finding that it's unsafe sleep practices, bedding, blankets, things like that, which are very, very important to prevent,” said Dr. Rose.
Health officials are warning parents to be mindful of the ABC’s and to keep infants under one 'Alone' on their 'Backs' in a safe 'Crib.'
“Making sure they're placing their infants in cribs with firm mattresses, no loose articles of clothing, no furry animals, no borders on the cribs, just flat and firm. No co-sleeping, sharing the room but not sharing the bed is very important here. Not overheating, making sure the child is comfortable but not so much that the child is sweating or damp,” said Dr. Rose.
Two of the ten unexpected infant deaths were at daycare facilities. Officials encourage parents to check that their child care providers have completed SIDS training, which is required by state law.
“We are seeing a steady uptick in the number of sleep-related infant deaths and it really is making the entire community alarmed. And when you look at trying to educate families about how to be safe the most important thing is that sleeping environment,” said Latoya Bates, director for the Center for Infant and Child Loss, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome is the leading cause of death in infants 1 to 12 months old. Doctors still don’t know the definitive cause but look for risk factors when investigating sleep-related deaths. SIDS is listed as the determined cause of death only after a lengthy investigation is completed where all other causes of death have been ruled out. Sudden unexpected infant death encompasses all sudden infant death including accidental deaths such as accidental asphyxiation and suffocation.
Regardless of what the death is ruled, SIDS or SUID, they're both sudden and unexpected. The Center for Infant and Child Loss was founded 40 years ago to study SIDS and provide grief counseling to newly bereaved parents.
Bates said they reach out through phone calls, handwritten notes, and work to connect the families with local therapists. Bates added that in addition to the pain and grief families feel, there’s also confusion as the syndrome largely remains a phenomenon.
“It leaves more questions than it does answers because there's no definitive cause, so families are always second-guessing and they're always trying to figure out what could of possibly happened and we're always trying to help them through that process to make it as natural a process as possible so they understand that they're not alone in their feelings and in their thoughts,” Bates said.
The Center mostly relies on donations to operate and support families. They have two upcoming fundraisers starting with Dr. G’s Vegas Night. That event will be held on Saturday, April 2, for more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
The 18th annual Walk/Run for SIDS and Child Loss will take place Saturday April 30 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. For more information on the event, click here.
And for more information from the Anne Arundel County Department of Health about safe sleeping practices for healthy babies, click here.