Campaign seeks to raise awareness of sleep suffocation in babies


A baby suffocates while sleeping every five days in Los Angeles County. It often happens while sharing a bed with parents.

Wednesday, a new campaign was launched, aimed at educating parents and caregivers about the hidden dangers.

Two-hundred-seventy-eight infants have died in L.A. County over the last four years due to accidental suffocation while sleeping. The majority happen in Latino and African-American families.

L.A. County Department of Public Health officials say in every one of the cases, the otherwise healthy infant was simply unable to move away from blankets, pillows, toys or even their parents to be able to breathe.

"Nothing else is more dangerous to our babies than the way they're put to sleep. Not drowning, not poisoning, not motor vehicle accidents, not child abuse and neglect," said Deanne Tilton Durfee, executive director of the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN).

L.A. County coroner's investigator Denise Bertone explains it's alarming how often it happens and how similar the circumstances.

"I hear mothers who tell me that their infant was crying so they take the baby and they put it in bed to snuggle and console the baby. The mother is often exhausted and she falls asleep. And when she wakes up the baby is lying next to her with blood draining from the nose," said Bertone.

It's why the Department of Public Health and ICAN are partnering in a countywide public service announcement campaign to teach parents how to put their babies to sleep safely.

The public-service announcements will air on television and radio stations in English and Spanish, and brochures will be printed in five languages and distributed at hospitals, doctors offices and childcare centers.

County Public Health Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding explains the rules of what he wants parents to remember.

"Share a room, not a bed. Place your baby back to sleep in a crib or bassinet. Place babies on their backs every single time. Keep extraneous objects like pillows, toys, bumpers, away from the sleep surface," said Fielding. "That's all that we have to do to further reduce this terrible condition that nobody wants to even think about."

The public service announcements air in English and Spanish versions. Brochures printed in five languages will be distributed at doctors' offices, hospitals and childcare centers.

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