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babyJune 6, 2019 -- Placing the safety of Westchester County’s children and families at the forefront, Westchester County Executive George Latimer launched a public awareness campaign aimed at preventing infant deaths attributed to unsafe sleeping environments. The ABCs of Safe Sleep, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and others, explains that the safest way for babies to sleep is Alone, on their Backs and in a Crib. At Ridge Hill Shopping Mall in Yonkers, Latimer was joined by members from the County’s Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Health Department to spread this very important message.  

Latimer said: “For any parent, the death of a child is absolutely devastating. That is why it is crucial to remember that your baby should always be sleeping alone, on his or her back and in a crib, every time you put your baby to sleep. It is our hope that by launching this safe sleep campaign, we will ultimately be saving children’s lives across Westchester County.”

As part of the campaign, DSS will be providing 500 bags filled with sleep sacks and pacifiers, two baby items that have been proven to reduce unsafe sleep infant deaths. The bags also include informational flyers that illustrate the ABCs of Safe Sleep in both English and Spanish. DSS’ nonprofit partners will help distribute the information to child care providers through its partnership with the Child Care Council of Westchester, and through the Westchester County Diaper Bank. The information will also be distributed through the Health Department’s WIC program that serves pregnant women and infants in Yonkers and Port Chester.

DSS Commissioner Kevin McGuire said: “Losing a child is heartbreaking and devastating to families. And Westchester County, along with its local and State partners, is prepared to do everything possible to educate parents and other caregivers about the ABCs of Safe Sleep, and the risks of bed sharing.”

Westchester County also created a promotional video for the campaign to reinforce the significance of safe sleep practices, featuring News 12 Westchester Reporter Blaise Gomez. Watch that promotional video HERE. Gomez is mother to her nine-year-old son Yani, and nine-month-old daughter Scarlett. The promotional video will be made available in all of DSS’ District Offices, as well as promoted in the County’s My Westchester Newsletter, on the website and on all social media platforms.

Gomez said: “My main concern are my children. I can imagine that any parent, their main concern is making sure that their kids are safe. So if I have the opportunity to raise awareness to what we do in our home to keep our children safe, I am more than happy to help spread that message to other people.”

The New York State Department of Health continues to report that nearly 100 infants die each year in New York State due to unsafe sleep practices, and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). Locally, the multi-disciplinary Westchester County Child Fatality Review Team reviewed 100 child fatalities between 2008 and 2018, and found that in 31% (involving 31 children) an unsafe sleep environment was identified, and that figure climbs to nearly 54% for infants under age one. While that doesn’t necessarily mean unsafe sleep was determined to be the cause, it nevertheless was present and of concern, pointing to the ongoing need for public education.

Also Statewide, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services reported that of the 221 infants under age one who died in an unsafe sleep environment between 2014 and 2016, 62% were sleeping in an adult bed, usually with one or more adults or other children, leading to our campaign for families to “Share the Room, Not the Bed.”

Commissioner of Health Sherlita Amler, MD said: “It is so unfortunate that unsafe sleeping and bed sharing are leading causes of death for infants, because most of the time these deaths could have been prevented. Bed sharing is not a safe alternative to placing a baby in their own crib, and every parent, family member and caregiver needs to understand the safest way to put babies to sleep. While new parents will learn the ABCs of Safe Sleep in our local hospitals, it is extremely important for us to reinforce these practices across Westchester County.”

Also joining the County Executive was Jennifer Canter, MD MPH FAAP, Child Abuse Pediatrician. Canter said: “Babies need parents’ love, bonding and a safe environment to thrive. I’ve evaluated hundreds of infant fatalities whereby well-intended caregivers made a fatal mistake. Love your baby by sleeping separately and save the cuddles for awake time.”

All parents and caregivers should use the tips listed below to keep your baby safe, and reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics: 

Alone:

  • Baby should always sleep alone in a crib.

  • Share the room, not the bed. Baby can share a room with parents, in a separate crib.

  • Baby should not co-sleep, or share a crib with a sibling or pet.

  • No blankets, pillows, toys or bumpers.

  • Dress baby in one more layer of clothing than you for warmth, and use a sleep sack.

Back:

  • Always place baby on his/her back.

  • No sleeping on side or tummy.

  • Tummy time is for supervised play time only.

  • No pillows or wedges in the crib.

Crib:

  • Baby sleeps safety in a separate crib or bassinet.

  • Use tightly fitted sheets with no blankets.

  • Never allow baby to sleep on a couch.

  • No futons, chairs or waterbeds.

For more information, please visit https://health.westchestergov.com/safe-sleep