1 Baby Dies Every 5 Days in L.A. County. Here's How You Can Stop it
When you're a new parent, you're exhausted. Everyone tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps, and nothing seems cozier (or easier) than snuggling in bed with your infant as you both take a nap. Except that you could wake up feeling refreshed, and your baby could be dead from suffocation.
Safe Sleep for Baby Campaign, coroner's statistics don't lie. In Los Angeles County alone, unsafe sleeping (sleeping in bed with your baby, letting them sleep on a sofa or chair or in a car seat, piling their crib with blankets or stuffed animals) is responsible for a full 62 percent of deaths of babies under 1-year-old.
What does 62 percent of infant deaths mean in real numbers? On average, one baby dies every five days in L.A. County from suffocating while sleeping. That's 70 babies every year. Seventy babies suffocated to death.
Unsafe sleeping is actually the the leading cause of infant death in L.A. County—more babies die from unsafe sleeping than from shaken baby syndrome, drowning, or being improperly strapped into a car seat. Who knew? I sure didn't.
When Mr. T and Mr. O were babies, they slept with us a LOT—mostly because I'd regularly work 70-80 hours per week and dealing with a crying baby every night was tough. Besides, before we left UCLA Medical Center, both times the nurses encouraged me to let the babies sleep in the hospital bed with me.
My husband and I also know lots of folks who delivered their babies at home (with or without midwives!) and they talked to us about how they slept with their babies. Folks would tell us that babies only die in the bed with you if you're drunk or high—you know, you are SO trashed that you roll over onto your baby and kill it. We don't drink or use drugs, so I figured it wouldn't hurt if our sons slept with us.
How wrong (and lucky) we were. As Deanne Tilton Durfee, executive director of the Los Angeles Inter-Agency-Council on Child Abuse and Neglect told me, you not being under the influence won't keep your baby from suffocating to death. It only takes seconds for an infant to suffocate, especially if they're under 6-months-old. They simply don't have the physical ability to breathe through their mouths, and they can't turn their head well. That means if their nose gets covered by a blanket or mashed against a stuffed animal or pillow—or your arm—they're dead.
What's really shocking, however, is that unsafe sleeping disproportionally impacts infants of color. Latino babies are 39 percent of bed sharing and unsafe sleep deaths. Black babies are 26 percent of bed sharing and unsafe sleep deaths—but black folks are only 9 percent of the L.A. County population.
Along with being exhausted, many of us have cultural reasons we sleep with our babies. Real talk: Over the years I have heard plenty of black and brown moms and dads say that bassinets and cribs are culturally "white" and that the "coldness" of white culture is rooted in the fact that white folks throw their babies in a crib at night, shut the door, and let the baby cry it out. "Back in Africa (or Mexico, or El Salvador), babies are strapped to their mothers all the time, they sleep with their parents all the time. It's more natural," folks say. "And besides, your mother's instinct will wake you up before your baby suffocates."
Except that's not true. If it takes you a minute to fully wake up, you're too late. Your baby is dead. And as for what's happening in Africa, if your baby dies, are you really going to want to explain to attendees at the funeral that you were merely trying to get in touch with your African roots?
Yesi told us how she heard about the Safe Sleep for Baby campaign, and that night she came home to find her daughter asleep on the couch with her baby. In the video above, Yesi details how the baby had rolled into the cushions. They were lucky that when she ran over to move the baby it was still alive. Seventy mothers per year in Los Angeles aren't so fortunate.
So, how do we keep our babies safe? Here's what you need to know:
1. Share a room, not a bed.
2. Lay babies down to sleep in a crib or bassinet with a firm mattress.
3. No cash for a crib or basinett? A Pack ‘n Play is a good alternative. BUT keep it free of everything.
4. Place babies on their back every time you lay them down to sleep.
5. Ditch the crib/bassinet pillows, bumpers, blankets and toys. Even one object is a suffocation risk.
If you don't have a baby, you need to be aware in case you babysit for a friend—and you can tell your friends with babies under 1-year-old to make sure they know what's up. Let's make sure our babies get the sleep they need to grow and thrive and that they wake up.
Want more information? Visit the Safe Sleep for Baby website or their Facebook Page.
This is a compensated campaign with One2One Network and ICAN. All opinions are 100% my own.