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11/11/20blog post

pediatric emergency department nurse urges community to practice safe sleep with their infants

three infants die in Ohio every week due to unsafe sleep

Opinion piece by Elaine Markland, BSN, RN, CPEN, Clinical Nurse Educator, Dayton Children's Hospital Emergency Department

Did you know that in Ohio three infants die every week due to unsafe sleep?

As an emergency department nurse of 30 years, I have seen my share of tragedies. Without a doubt, nothing is more shattering than the death of a child. It is gut-wrenching to witness a family grieve the loss of their baby. Their pain is horrendous and long lasting.

Unfortunately, in 2019, we pronounced ten infants dead in our emergency department after they were found in unsafe sleep environments. Eight of these babies were sleeping in the caregivers’ bed. These babies were brought into our emergency department after being found at home, not breathing. We worked to resuscitate or bring these babies back to life, but it was too late. My heart grieves for these families.

One of the saddest examples of unsafe sleep is when a parent falls asleep with the baby in their arms on a bed or couch. While the parent is sleeping, the baby slips and suffocates as the result of an object (i.e., pillow, blanket, or clothing) or a parent’s body blocking the baby’s airway. When the airway is blocked, the baby cannot get any air into the lungs, and they then die. This is tragic.

There are too many precious babies needlessly dying in our area, and black babies are dying at a rate of 2-3 times that of white babies. We need to get the word out about safe sleep and make it a norm in our communities. Every baby less than 12 months of age needs to sleep alone, on their back and in their own crib with no toys or blankets. The crib should be in the room with the caregiver for the first year. The baby should sleep in a safe place with every sleep or nap. It only takes one time in an unsafe place for a baby to lose their life.

Please help me spread the message of safe sleep to our community. Talk to everyone about following the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, especially caregivers or expectant mothers. Let’s keep our precious little ones safe.  At Dayton Children’s, we want every baby to celebrate their first birthday and many more!