According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the number of infants dying as they sleep is said by Milwaukee health officials to be at a crisis level in that city.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many communities have Child Death Review Teams that meet regularly to thoroughly review child deaths in hopes of better understanding how and why children died. The purpose is to prevent other deaths and improve the health and safety of children.
In Milwaukee, this team is called the Pediatric Death Review Team. The Sentinel reports that the team meets every month to review infant deaths, identify causes and brainstorm parent education and prevention strategies. When the team met in June, it found that between December and May, 18 infants died. The team determined that unsafe sleeping environments may have been contributing factors in most, if not all, of the deaths in that 16 of the 18 infants were sleeping either with an adult or an older sibling.. However, Milwaukee County Medical Examiner Jeffrey Jentzen said final causes of death may still be pending in some of the cases.
The Sentinel says there were nine infant deaths related to unsafe sleeping environments between December and May of last year; this year’s figures are twice as many.
Bevan Baker is the Milwaukee Health Commissioner. He said the message must get out to parents that their babies should never sleep with them, and when they put their infants down to sleep, they must always lay them on their backs. The Sentinel reports that Baker understands how difficult parenting can be and that in many of the cases where infants have died, the parents “tell us that it was just a temporary lapse or that they just sat or laid the child down for a moment,” he said. “But an unsafe sleep environment will affect any baby – no matter the race – and so the advice given to parents has to be continuously reinforced by the community and anyone who comes into contact with mom, dad and baby.”
According to the Sentinel, Medical Examiner Jentzen said the Pediatric Death Review Team has found that 80 percent of infant deaths in Milwaukee occur during co-sleeping. When his office re-enacts the scene with the family, using a doll, how the death occurred becomes evident.
The Sentinel says that the January Fetal Infant Mortality Review Report found that the overall infant death rate from 2002-2004 for white babies in Milwaukee was 12 deaths per 1,000 live births. For African-American babies, the rate was almost 20 per 1,000 live births. The causes of death were either entrapment or SIDS.
According to the Sentinel, the American SIDS Institute reports that there are about 2,500 SIDS death a year in the U.S. Over the past 10 years, Wisconsin as averaged a disproportionate 100 SIDS death a year.
Anne Havieux is the program administrator for the Infant Death Center of Wisconsin. According to the Sentinel, she said there are many reasons why co-sleeping occurs. Some people do not believe a baby should sleep alone; others may not be able to afford a crib for their baby. Pediatric nurse Kathy Elertson said: “To many, SIDS is considered crib death and people think that it is the crib causing the death. And we still have parents that say ‘I’ll put him in the bed with me and then I’ll hear if something happens.’ “
Regardless of the causes, the high infant death rate is an alarming trend that Milwaukee is determined to address, beginning with an educational approach.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, More city infants are dying in bed; http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=627839
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; http://www.cdc.gov/SIDS/mortality.htm