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

Modified: January 8, 2018 12:28pm

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

Date: January 4, 2017                              

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 Cold Weather

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

ERIE COUNTY, NY— The Erie County Department of Health and Department of Social Services want to remind parents of newborns that infants sleeping with parents or placing blankets over an infant while sleeping is very dangerous. Colder winter weather may lead infant caregivers to incorrectly believe that “co-sleeping” with a parent or using extra covers is appropriate to keep infants warm. Instead, it offers just the opposite: an extremely unsafe sleep environment that jeopardizes the life of the baby. cartoon graphic

“Parents and caregivers need to be aware of the tremendous risks of an infant sleeping in an adult bed or couch or on its belly 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 (SIDS) and other sleep-related infant death cases as parents and caretakers often place blankets or extra night clothes on infants. Overheating also increases the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths. 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:

  • Back to sleep for every sleep. To reduce the risk of SIDS, infants should be placed for sleep wholly on the back for every sleep by every caregiver until the child reaches 1 year of age. Side sleeping is not safe and is not advised     
  • Infants should be placed on a firm sleep surface (e.g., mattress in a safety-approved crib) covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding or soft objects to reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation. A crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard that conforms to the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission is recommended.
  • No bumper pads of any kind should be used as these create risk of strangulation or entrapment. There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries.
  • Infants should sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for the first year of life, but at least for the first 6 months. Room-sharing reduces SIDS risk and removes the possibility of suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment that may occur when the infant is sleeping in the adult bed.
  • Sleeping on couches and armchairs is extremely dangerous for infants and places them at extraordinarily high risk of infant death, suffocation through entrapment or wedging between seat cushions, or overlay if another person is sharing this surface.
  • 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 the caregiver is overtired; they may 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.  
  • Breastfeeding is recommended and is associated with a reduced SIDS risk. Mothers who breastfeed their infant in bed should exercise caution that they do not fall asleep putting the infant at risk. However, it is less hazardous to fall asleep with the infant in an adult bed than on a sofa or armchair, should the parent fall asleep. No pillows, sheets, blankets, or any other items that could obstruct infant breathing or cause overheating should be in the bed.

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

For more information

Erie County Department of Health

Erie County Department of Social Services Safe Sleeping Campaign

American Academy of Pediatrics –

A Parent’s Guide to Safe Sleep

2016 Recommendations To Reduce the Risk of SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths


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Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH)
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