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Officials urge safe sleep practices for infants after rise in co-sleeping deaths

Akron Beacon Journal - 7/31/2020

Summit County public health officials are urging parents and guardians to follow safe sleeping practices for infants after a recent rise in co-sleeping deaths.

The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office reported five co-sleeping deaths between July 11 and 22.

According to Summit County Public Health, in Ohio, about three infants die every week due to unsafe sleep environments. In 2019, Summit County started to see an increase in sleep-related deaths, and the numbers are continuing to persist in 2020.

Sleep-related deaths include Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and deaths from accidental suffocation and asphyxia.

"Caring for a newborn can be truly exhausting, especially for parents who face other stress factors in their daily lives. But falling asleep with your child, without placing them in a safe sleep environment, cannot become an acceptable routine," said Tamiyka Rose, Akron's health equity ambassador. "Losing a child is unthinkable; losing a child and knowing that it could have been prevented is life-altering."

The risk of sleep-related death increases with co-sleeping or bed-sharing with adults or other family members and unsafe sleep environments, like an adult bed, sofa or recliners, with pillows, blankets or stuffed animals, according to the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office.

Unintentional asphyxiation (suffocation) accounts for almost 50% of the sleep-related deaths seen in Summit County since 2013.

"Since 2013, we have lost an average of 10 infants a year due to unsafe sleeping practices, and even one infant death due to unsafe sleep is too many," Ndidi Edeh-Larberg, maternal child health epidemiologist at Summit County Public Health. said.

According to Summit County Public Health and the Ohio Department of Health:

? The safest place for a baby to sleep is alone on their back in a crib in the room where the parent or guardian sleeps but not in the parent or guardian's bed. Babies should never be placed to sleep on adult beds, chairs, sofas, recliners, waterbeds, pillows, cushions or soft surfaces.

? Babies should be dressed in sleep clothing, like a sleep sack, and shouldn't have a blanket. Avoid letting the baby get too hot, and keep room temperatures in a range comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.

? Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development. Consider using a pacifier at nap time and bedtime once breastfeeding is well established.

? Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations. Breastfeeding is recommended to help reduce the risk of SIDS.

? Avoid smoke exposure, alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth, and obtain regular prenatal care.

"Sleep-related deaths are not an abstract concept -- these irreversible tragedies occur far too often in our city," Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said. "We need everyone who loves or cares for an infant to take this issue seriously and commit to practicing safe sleep, so every one of our babies has a fighting chance to reach their first birthday and beyond."

For more information, visit or contact your health care provider. Those who currently don't have a safe place for their infant to sleep should contact Summit County Public Health at 330-926-5700.

"Babies in our community are dying, and they are our future," said Shaleeta Smith, maternal child health manager at Summit County Public Health. "Protect our community by helping babies sleep safely."

Contact Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills at


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