Stanislaus County officials are reporting a troubling rise of infant deaths caused by unsafe sleeping arrangements.
Kristi Herr Ah You, chief deputy coroner, said that thirteen babies died in the past eight months from accidental smothering while sleeping with family members or from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The cause of death is still pending for another infant who died under similar circumstances this month.
The 14 deaths have prompted county officials to reinforce an education message — that it’s dangerous for a baby to sleep with parents or siblings. Officials also want parents to consider safe sleeping arrangements for their little ones, such as placing the baby on his or her back in a crib with no pillows, large blankets or stuffed animals.
Herr Ah You said the 13 babies that died between Aug. 1 and March 31 were from 1 to 9 months old. The majority were two to three months, when babies still aren’t strong enough to lift their heads or turn onto their sides.
The children had been sleeping with parents or siblings on beds covered with large pillows and blankets. Some were accidentally smothered by parents or got into positions where they couldn’t breathe, Herr Ah You said.
She said two deaths occurred on the same date in March, and another occurred a day later. In some cases, the infants were sleeping with parents who were under the influence of alcohol or cold medication, which could have impaired their ability to wake up at the sign of trouble, she said.
It appeared all of the deaths were accidental and authorities did not fault the parents for negligence.
County health officials, along with Herr Ah You, are planning to do more to educate parents about the dangers of bed sharing.