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Weather May Be Behind Travis County Infant Death Increase

AAP recomends that infants sleep in a crib without hazards such as pillows or blankets

In the first six weeks of 2014, the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office has had five cases of infants dying while on the same sleep surface as one or more adults. Forensic Nurse Leanne Courtney says that's more than in all of each of the previous two years.

"There were four, both for 2013 and 2012; however, the total amount of infant deaths last year were eight, but so far this year, we're creeping up towards that number, so we really want to emphasize to parents and caretakers about the risks of unsafe sleeping environments," Courtney said.

The same sleep surface as an adult is considered an unsafe sleeping environment for an infant under the age of one year. It can be an adult bed, couch, chair or floor. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends an infant's crib be free of any blankets, pillows, toys or bumper pads, all of which can lead to suffocation.

While the only known common factor in these five most recent infant deaths has been that they were all on the same sleep surface as an adult, Courtney wonders if the unusually cold weather of recent weeks might have been a contributing factor.

"We don't know how many people bed-share, but it is a risk for suffocation and overlay and perhaps, because it’s been a cold winter that maybe more people are bed-sharing. That’s just a hypothesis of what’s caused these babies to die, but all of these babies were sharing the same sleep surface,” she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers this A.B.C. of safe sleep for infants:  Alone, on their Back and in a safety-approved Crib. 

More information on safe sleep for infants is available here from the Medical Examiner's Office.

Trey Shaar is an All Things Considered producer, reporter and host. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @treyshaar.
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