AUGUSTA — Chief Medical Examiner Mark Flomenbaum and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills are warning parents of young children against bed sharing with their infants, according to a news release from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Since early January, Flomenbaum has investigated the deaths of five babies, all under the age of four months. The deaths were caused by asphyxiation while sleeping, primarily from infants sleeping in the same bed as their parents, the release said. All five deaths were determined to be accidental.
"I have never before seen such numbers in my 23-year long career," Flomenbaum said, in the release. "These tragedies are easily preventable. Whether it is a desire to snuggle in cold weather or to comfort or be comforted by the infant, it is false comfort when the adult falls asleep and accidentally asphyxiates that tiny child."
"The first weeks and months of being a parent can be exhausting, but I urge parents to heed the advice of experts and adhere to safe sleep practices," Attorney General Mills said. "The temptation to get a quick nap or to provide warmth is also an opportunity for smothering a baby quite unintentionally. Please, please, do not have your infant sleep with you. Each child is a precious and fragile being and should be treated with great care."
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has warned against sharing a bed or couch with an infant, noting that 10-12 babies die in unsafe sleep circumstances in Maine every year.
"Five deaths of otherwise healthy children in less than two months is a terrible trend and a warning that not all parents are getting the message," said Flomenbaum.
In "A Parents' Guide to Safe Sleep," the AAP states that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in a crib or bassinet in the room where the parent sleeps but not in the parent's bed. Experts also recommend placing babies to sleep on their backs during naps and at nighttime, rather than on their sides or stomachs, and without stuffed animals, pillows or other items that could stifle the child's breathing.
"It is tempting to curl up with a baby in bed. But please resist that temptation. Don't cuddle your child to death," Flomenbaum cautioned.
The Chief Medical Examiner has conducted examinations of the five babies. All five deaths were determined to be accidental and no further action will be taken.
For more information: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/Documents/Safe_Sleep_Baby_English.pdf