The Minnesota Department of Health is urging parents to be careful to follow safe sleeping practices with infants.
The department looked back at infant deaths and found that 10 times as many infants die because of unsafe sleeping conditions than in car crashes. According to recent data, fewer than five babies a year died in car crashes but more than 50 died while sleeping.
In 2014, 53 Minnesota babies died suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping, the department says. All of those babies were exposed to at least one sleep safety hazard.
The Health Department says 63 percent had been sharing a sleeping area with another person, and 85 percent either had loose objects around them (like pillows or blankets) or weren't sleeping on a firm surface like a crib mattress.
To keep babies safe, the MDH recommends following the ABCs of safe sleep:
- ALONE: Infants should always sleep or nap alone.
- BACK: Always put a baby on their back to sleep or nap.
- CRIB: Babies should always sleep or nap in their own safety-approved crib or play yard.
Experts also recommend keeping blankets and pillows out of the crib to reduce the risk of suffocation. Instead, keep babies warm with appropriate pajamas.
"We can save dozens of babies a year by supporting parents, grandparents, caregivers, communities and retailers in their efforts to have babies sleep alone on their backs in safety-approved cribs free of pillows and blankets," Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in a statement.
Governor Mark Dayton has also proclaimed the week of October 23-29 as Infant Safe Sleep Week in Minnesota.
New guidelines for safe sleeping
This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced new guidelines for keeping sleeping babies safe.
In addition to the recommendations above, the new guidelines say babies should sleep in the same room as their parents for an entire year.
Not in a bed, though. The infant should stay in a crib.
The academy says sleeping in the same room can reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent.
The new guidelines also recommend skin-to-skin contact with the baby ASAP after birth, as well as breastfeeding.
The Academy of Pediatrics says there are about 3,500 sleep-related infant deaths every year in the U.S.
According to Mayo Clinic there are other factors – in addition to sleeping hazards – that put babies at higher risk of SIDS. Those include brain abnormalities, low birth weight, and respiratory infections.
Additionally, gender and race play a role. Mayo says boys and black or American Indian babies are more likely to die of SIDS.
The state Department of Health says that may have to do with racial inequities and not being able to provide a safe sleeping environment.