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Help keep infants safe while they sleep

Dozens of Tampa Bay infants have died from sleep-related causes; know the facts to help prevent this avoidable tragedy

In the Tampa Bay area alone, nearly 140 infants died of preventable sleep-related causes over the last five years (2012-2016). Each of these deaths was preventable.

Co-sleeping, which means having babies sleep in the same bed as parents, siblings or caregivers, is often the cause of sleep-related infant death. In fact, more infants die in adult beds than anywhere else, and infants are 40 times more likely to die in an adult bed than in their own crib.

When co-sleeping, a baby may suffocate if an adult unintentionally rolls on top of them or if the baby slides against a pillow or blanket. Infants can’t roll away or move their heads because they lack the muscle control to move their neck if something like a pillow or stuffed animal is blocking their airway. Pillow-top mattresses, comforters, fluffy pillows, and stuffed animals are a danger to infants in adult beds, as well as in cribs. A pillow or stuffed animal could block their airway — with tragic consequences.

Take a few moments to learn the measures you can take today to prevent more sleep-related infants deaths from occurring in our community:

-Bring the crib into the parent or caregiver’s room. Sharing a room with a child has almost all of the same benefits of sharing a bed, but without the risks. It’s recommended to bring the baby’s crib, or a smaller bassinet, into the parents’ room for the first year of the baby’s life.

-Practice the ABCs of safe sleep. The safest way for infants to sleep is Alone on their Backs in a Crib. This minimizes the risk of the infant suffocating, especially if they have not yet developed neck muscle control.

-Follow crib setup recommendations. A crib mattress should be firm and fit snugly inside the crib’s frame, and sheets should fit tightly around the mattress. The sleeping area should free of blankets, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, sleep positioners and toys for children under six months.

-Prepare for when your child will not be sleeping at home. If a child sleeps at someone else’s home, such as with grandparents or other caretakers, make sure they have the proper sleeping arrangements by using a crib or pack-n-play with a fitted sheet. Infants should never be placed on a blow up mattress or couch, even if it is temporary.

-Learn from the past. As more information becomes available, parents and caregivers must let go of some practices in order to provide children with the safest environment possible for sleeping. We changed our habits about car seats and lead paint; it’s time to change our habits on co-sleeping.

Even one preventable child death is too many. Learn more about how you can help keep children in our community safe at

The Prevent Needless Deaths Campaign is an awareness campaign made possible by the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, Eckerd Kids and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

By Kelley Parris

Executive Director, The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County

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