The number of infants dying while sleeping is on the rise in Deschutes County and causing health care providers to increase awareness about the troubling trend.
Between 2012 and 2017, 14 Deschutes County infants died by suffocation or strangulation while sleeping, according to statewide health statistics. Five of those deaths happened in 2016, compared to one death in 2012.
The Deschutes County Child Fatality Review — a team of multidisciplinary community agencies that convenes twice a year to identify trends and possible interventions — is partnering with other health care agencies to raise awareness of the importance of safe sleep practices.
The collaborative effort is focused on proactively sharing information about the issue on social media and in clinics through June.
Central Oregon Pediatric Associates, Summit Medical Group Oregon, Mosaic Medical and public health departments in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties are participating along with the KIDS Center and St. Charles Health System.
Logan Thomas Clausen, chief medical officer at Central Oregon Pediatric Associates, said the more people who are aware of the problem, the more likely it is to be reduced.
“We don’t know the exact reason for the increased trend, but our thought is lately there has been less of a push for awareness about the risk factors,” Clausen said.
The most common risk factors for babies are sleeping on a soft surface, sleeping on their stomachs and exposure to parents smoking. Premature babies, low birth-weight babies and babies who sleep in the same bed as their parents have an especially higher risk.
The safest way for babies to sleep is on their backs, on a firm mattress and without crib bumpers, stuffed animals, thick blankets or pillows in their sleeping area, Clausen said.
Babies can sleep with their parents, but the babies must sleep in a space separated from the parents.
“There are ways to do it safely,” Clausen said.
Clausen said she understands it can be hard for new parents to establish safe sleeping habitats, but she is encouraging parents to take the time and make sure their babies are sleeping safely.
“All of it takes a lot of patience and practice and dedication to doing it, and that is really hard when you are a tired new parent,” Clausen said. “But the importance can’t be overstated.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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