Cold Winter Months Increase Risk Factors for Infant Deaths
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced a new county-wide Safe Sleep Awareness Campaign to reduce Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) at Winchester Hospital on Thursday.
In attendance were nearly 100 community partners from the fields of law enforcement, healthcare, social services and child welfare. Joining District Attorney Ryan at the event were State Senator Jason Lewis, Winchester Hospital CEO Kevin Smith, Chairman of the Winchester Hospital Board of Directors Paul Andrews, and Kathy Schuler, Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer at Winchester Hospital. Also attending the event were several police chiefs from Middlesex County: Arlington Chief Fred Ryan, Belmont Chief Richard McLaughlin, Lincoln Chief Kevin Kennedy, Stoneham Chief James McIntyre, Wakefield Chief Rick Smith, Weston Chief Kevin Mooney, and Woburn Chief Robert Ferullo. The 2015 awareness campaign, “Safe Sleep, Safe Babies,” was developed by District Attorney Ryan and members of the Middlesex Safe Babies, Safe Kids Task Force (SBSK).
“With winter upon us, now is a particularly important time to raise awareness about this important public safety issue. As the temperature outside declines, parents and caregivers may be tempted to turn the heat up inside, overdress their baby or put blankets in the crib,” said District Attorney Ryan. “What we know from the research, from the medical experts, and from having investigated cases of infant deaths ourselves, is that we can reduce the risk for SUID by not exposing babies to overheating and hazards in the crib. Overheating and suffocation are completely preventable, yet we know these to be factors in infant deaths nationwide, and historically we’ve seen these deaths increase during the colder months of the year.”
The Middlesex District Attorney’s State Police CPAC Unit responds to and investigates all unattended deaths in Middlesex County, including those involving infants. Over the last five years, the Middlesex Child Fatality Review Team, led by District Attorney Ryan, has reviewed 19 cases of infant deaths that occurred while sleeping.
SUID is the leading cause of deaths among babies in their first year of life. In 2010, more than 2,000 babies in the United States died of SUIDs. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, it is the third leading cause of death statewide for children under the age of 12 months. In Massachusetts, 30 to 50 deaths are attributed to SUID each year.
To decrease the chances of SUID, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
– Placing an infant for sleep on his/her back until the age of 1;
– Placing the baby on a firm sleep surface covered by a tight-fitted sheet;
– Keeping soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib, such as pillows, blankets, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, toys, stuffed animals and bumper pads;
– Having the infant’s crib, portable crib, play yard, or bassinet in the parents’ bedroom close to the parents’ bed;
– Room-sharing is recommended, but bed- sharing is not advised because it can result in suffocation, strangulation and entrapment;
– Preventing overheating by not overdressing infants;
– Avoiding over bundling and covering of the head and face;
– Dressing infants in clothing appropriate for their environment;
– Avoiding smoking, during and after pregnancy, and exposing a baby to second-hand smoke.
Experts also advise that room temperature be regulated between 68-72 degrees at all times of the year. Signs of overheating include sweating and/or the infant’s chest being hot to the touch.
This event marks the beginning of a series of county-wide risk reduction initiatives led by District Attorney Ryan and the Safe Baby, Safe Kids Task Force. This effort will include outreach to OB/Gyn and pediatric offices; educational materials for parents and caregivers; free regional community workshops for expectant and new parents on sleep safety; a smartphone app that promotes safe sleep tips; and a cable access show that will made available to stations across Middlesex County.
“The Safe Babies, Safe Kids Task Force has been doing great work in our communities, and I know that the 2015 Safe Sleep Awareness Campaign will help save more lives,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I’m especially grateful to Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan for her longstanding leadership on prevention and wellness efforts.”
“The health and safety of our babies is the highest priority,” said Kathy Schuler, Vice President of Patient Care at Winchester Hospital. “The District Attorney’s Safe Sleep Awareness Campaign is an important step towards informing parents about safe sleep practices and we’re proud to work with District Attorney Ryan in helping to promote such an essential issue for parents.”
District Attorney Ryan created the SBSK Task Force in 2009 as a multi-disciplinary, cross-sector partnership to address issues of health and safety affecting babies and children in Middlesex County. SBSK partners include: Winchester Hospital; Melrose-Wakefield Hospital; Mount Auburn Hospital; Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Lowell General Hospital; Emerson Hospital; Newton-Wellesley Hospital; Holy Family Hospital; Tufts Medical Center; Metro West Free Medical Program; the Massachusetts Medical Society; the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families; the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Children’s Trust; the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office; and the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Middlesex County is the most populous county in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the twenty-third most populous county in the United States. There are more than 1.5 million residents in the county, and of those 85,000 are under the age of 5. District Attorney Ryan has prioritized the protection of children both in an out of the courtroom. Under her leadership, SBSK has produced and distributed educational materials to parents, caregivers and other stakeholders on topics such as Water Safety, Window Safety and Car Safety. The office’s Child Protection Unit– comprised of 9 Assistant District Attorneys, 5 Victim Witness Advocates, and 3 Child Interview Specialists– is a specialized unit charged with investigating and prosecuting crimes against children, and is actively engaged in the office’s community outreach and public education initiatives.
For more information about SUID, including additional recommendations for parents and caregivers, please review the policy statement published by the American Academy of Pediatrics: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/10/12/peds.2011-2284.
To learn more about the Middlesex Safe Babies, Safe Kids Task Force (SBSK) and to download educational materials, please visit http://middlesexda.com/prevention/safe-babies-safe-kids.php.
Pictured: Middlesex DA Ryan visits with new mom Wendy Giblin and baby John, patients at Winchester Hospital
- Submitted by Middlesex DA Marion Ryan’s office