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Rise in infant deaths spurs changes in York's newborn education

SARA BLUMBERG
YorkDispatch

In 2013, there was one infant death in York County.

In 2014, there were 11.

To date in 2015, there have been four.

Each child had a story and a short life. As the number of infant deaths continues to increase in the York area, local officials are implementing a more coordinated education effort to teach parents the importance of putting a newborn to bed safely.

York County Coroner Pam Gay said York Hospital has even changed the sleep-instruction video it shows new parents, in favor of a piece that gives a more a realistic depiction of what can happen if a child isn't sleeping in a proper setting.

"It intertwines safe sleep messaging with the stories of three mothers who lost their babies while bed-sharing," she said.

The causes of eight of the 2014 deaths were undetermined, but two or three appeared to be caused by asphyxia, which was likely brought on by the infant sleeping in bed with an adult, Gay told The York Dispatch in January.

"Generally there is some factor in the sleep environment that may have contributed to the death," Gay said.

The remaining three deaths were due to natural causes. Determining a cause of death of an infant can be very difficult since parents or caretakers aren't always forthcoming with information to law officials, Gay said.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as SIDS, is closely associated with unsafe practices. It is the leading cause of death for infants between the ages of 1 month and 1 year.

Dr. Michael Goodstein, a pediatrician at York Hospital and chair of the local chapter of Cribs for Kids, said he'll continue educating new parents on the importance of newborn sleep safety.

"We won't stop until that number is zero," he said.

His tips for safe sleeping include the following:

•Infants should sleep in a crib or bassinet, even during afternoon naps.

•Parents should be careful that the baby does not become overheated. Typically, infants only need one more layer of warmth than adults for sleep.

•A sleep sack should be used instead of a blanket. Cribs should be clear of all pillows, stuffed animals and blankets.

•Babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep.

— Reach Sara Blumberg at sblumberg@yorkdispatch.com.