There have been more sudden infant deaths in British Columbia in the first half of 2011 than for all of 2010.
Sudden infant deaths occur when a previously healthy baby dies in sleep-related circumstances, and no cause of death is found on autopsy. The BC Coroners Service is urging parents to educate themselves on safe sleep practices to ensure that all babies live to see their first birthday.
The Coroners Service Child Death Review Unit (CDRU) completed a review of preliminary information on 21 sudden infant deaths that occurred between Jan. 1 and June 28, 2011. In 2010, there were 16 such deaths for the whole year. In each case, the infant was found unresponsive after having been placed to sleep, either at night or for a nap. While the cause of sudden infant death remains unknown, certain sleep practices are known to increase risk to the baby.
Factors that increase risk include placing a baby to sleep on his or her stomach or side, sleeping on soft surfaces and having soft objects in the sleep environment, sharing a sleep surface with the baby, overheating and being exposed to cigarette smoke. Almost all cases reviewed included one of more of these risk factors. Only five infants were on a surface designed for infant sleep, such as a crib. Eleven were sleeping on an adult bed.
The BC Coroners Service supports safe infant sleep and recommends parents and caregivers learn how to reduce the risk of sudden infant death.
- Placing the baby on his or her back, in a crib, for every sleep.
- Having the crib beside the caregiver's bed for the first six months.
- Using a firm, flat mattress and only a fitted sheet.
- Ensuring the crib, cradle or bassinette meets Canadian safety standards.
- Ensuring baby does not sleep on a couch, adult mattress, sheepskin or waterbed.
- Keeping baby's environment smoke-free during pregnancy and after birth.
- Avoiding bed-sharing (sharing a sleep surface).
For more information about sudden infant death in B.C. or more tips on safe parenting practices for sleeping children, visit the Coroners Service website at: http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/coroners
BC Coroners Service