BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Babies are cute and cuddly, but local doctors have an important reminder: keep them out of your bed.
Bed-sharing, also known as co-sleeping, is dangerous, and the problem appears to be getting worse in the Capital City.
East Baton Rouge coroner Dr. William "Beau" Clark reports an uptick in the number of infants killed due to unsafe sleeping conditions. Infants are often suffocated by blankets and loose sheets or when a relative rolls on top of them.
"Ironically enough, I've gone into several of these death scenes where there's been a crib that's right there next to the bed, and the baby just happened to be sleeping in the bed," Clark said.
In 2012, seven infants died in East Baton Rouge because of an unsafe sleeping environment, according to Clark's records. The next year saw eight such deaths. The number shot up to 15 in 2014. Three babies already lost their lives this year because they were not properly put to bed.
They're traumatic deaths that Clark considers 100 percent preventable.
"Certainly as much information as we can get out there to the public to say, 'Don't do it,' the better, and hopefully our number will go to zero," Clark said.
The coroner's office regularly partners with the area's four birthing hospitals to raise awareness.
Baton Rouge pediatrician Stephen Sanches, M.D., said parents must resist the urge to bring their baby into a bed, sofa or recliner.
"We actually encourage what we call 'room-sharing' where the baby actually sleeps in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed or the same sleeping surface as the parents," Sanches explained.
Some critics argue that babies sleep better when sharing a bed and that the close bond encourages breastfeeding.
"The theory is that if the baby is more readily available to the mom, it would make her more likely to succeed in breastfeeding, because she wouldn't have to get up to get the baby," Sanches said. "But there are a lot of ways you could arrange the sleeping environment by putting the baby in a bassinet, a crib or one of those designed co-sleepers where the baby is attached to the bed, but on a different, safer sleeping surface than the parent that makes them just as accessible."
For low-income families, Sanches suggests borrowing a crib, buying one second-hand or looking for a program that offers free cribs.
More information can be found through Louisiana's Partners for Health Babies program by calling 1-800-251-BABY (2229).
The American Academy of Pediatric offers these guidelines for safe sleeping:
- Always place your baby on his or her back for every sleep time.
- Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
- The baby should sleep in the same room as the parents, but not in the same bed (room-sharing without bed-sharing).
- Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, and bumper pads.
- Wedges and positioners should not be used.
- Pregnant woman should receive regular prenatal care.
- Don't smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
- Breastfeeding is recommended.
- Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
- Avoid covering the infant's head or overheating.
- Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
- Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development and minimize the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).