Infant Caregivers Warned of Increased Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (‘SIDS’) during Extreme Cold; Departments of Health and Social Services Encourage Safe Sleeping Practices for Babies and Infants

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From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale Burstein

Date February 6, 2015                            

CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov

Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925

 Infant Caregivers Warned of Increased Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (‘SIDS’) during Extreme Cold

 Departments of Health and Social Services Encourage Safe Sleeping Practices for Babies and Infants

ERIE COUNTY, NY— During the prolonged cold weather, Erie County Department of Health and Department of Social Services want to remind parents of newborns that infants sleeping with parents or having blankets placed over them while sleeping is dangerous.  Tragically, this winter has already seen the deaths of two infants which have been attributed to an unsafe sleep environment.

“Parents and caregivers need to be aware of the tremendous risks of having an infant sleep with another individual in an adult bed or couch or in a ‘face-down’ position,” states Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health (‘ECDOH’).  “Infants cannot roll over or uncover blankets from their face, placing them at great risk of suffocation. The cold, winter months often correspond with an increase in the number of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome cases as parents and caretakers often place blankets or extra night clothes on infants. Overheating also increases the risk of SIDS, and parents and caregivers should not place any blankets or too many layers of clothing on infants.

Parents and caretakers of young children are urged to follow these recommendations:

  • Always place infants on their backs to sleep (“Back to Sleep”). The child will breathe easier and this may help prevent SIDS.    
  • Check to see that the bedding for your baby is safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics (‘AAP’) recommends a firm sleep surface in a child-safe crib, that is free of soft objects or loose bedding that could entrap or smother the baby. Infants should not be put to sleep on waterbeds, sofas, chairs, or other unstable surfaces.
  • No bumper pads of any kind should be used. There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of strangulation or entrapment from bumper pads.
  • Exercise caution sleeping with infants, especially on small surfaces. A small sleeping area and the sharing of that space with one or more adults or siblings greatly increases the risk of the infant becoming entrapped in bedding or smothered during normal movements during sleep. This is especially true when the person sharing the bed is obese.
  • Do not sleep with your baby, especially if you have been using alcohol or drugs (including legal, illegal, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs). Alcohol and drug use can cause a deeper sleep leading to decreased awareness of the infant and the surroundings, thus increasing the risk of overlay or entrapment.
  • Take particular care when overtired which could cause a caregiver to fall asleep while holding or breastfeeding the infant. The baby is then at risk of the caregiver rolling over on them or slipping down into the chair or bed frame. 
  • According to AAP, mothers who choose to breastfeed their infant in bed should exercise caution that they do not fall asleep putting the infant at risk.

“Unsafe sleeping-related deaths are one of most common type of death for infants in Erie County and are 100 percent preventable,” said Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer. “By following these straight-forward recommendations, parents and caretakers can significantly reduce the risk of a tragedy occurring. These are heartbreaking accidents. We hope by bringing these tragedies to the attention of Erie County parents and caregivers that they will heed our recommendations and keep their infants safe.”

For more information:

Erie County Department of Health –

Erie County Department of Social Services –

American Academy of Pediatrics –

“SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment; Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.”

United States Consumer Product Safety Commission --

March of Dimes --

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