Officials warn against deadly sleeping practices that killed 8 babies in Montgomery Co. this year

DAYTON — Infant deaths were on the rise and, according to officials, the deaths were directly related to unsafe sleeping practices and equipment.

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Montgomery County’s Department of Job and Family Services, Public Health—Dayton & Montgomery County, along with the county’s Coroner’s Office warned of unsafe sleeping practices that killed six babies and of a dangerous lounger that killed two—all this year.

In September 2021, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Boppy Company recalled more than 3.3 million newborn loungers after eight babies died inside of the product. Their deaths were attributed to suffocation.

“Babies can suffocate if they roll, move, or are placed on the lounger in a position that obstructs their breathing,” a spokesperson for the Montgomery County’s Department of Job and Family Services said.

“Infants haven’t developed the strength they need to pull air in or push air out when their chest or abdomen becomes compressed or when their mouth or nose is obstructed by bedding or pillows,” Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Kent Harshbarger said.

“It also takes time for the muscles needed to move their necks and heads to fully develop, so placing them to sleep at an incline can cause them to fall asleep in a chin-to-chest position which can restrict their airway,” Harshbarger continued.

Some crib bumpers were also recently banned in the United States for their potential to suffocate a baby.

As a result of the multiple infant deaths, Montgomery County’s EveryOne Reach One Maternal and Infant Vitality Task Force reminded parents, family members, and friends about proper safe sleep procedures in addition to not using banned or dangerous baby products.

“Infants should always sleep alone, on their backs, and in a crib, bassinet or play yard,” the spokesperson said. “There should be nothing loose placed in the sleep space, such as blankets or toys, which may cause the baby to suffocate.”

Parents were also advised to not sleep with their child, either in a bed, recliner, or couch.

“There is no safe way to bedshare, and using products not intended for sleep puts more babies at risk of dying,” Health Commissioner Jennifer Wentzel said. “The best way for a baby to sleep is alone, on their back and in a crib.”

“The terms—crib, bassinet/cradle, and play yard—are only allowed for products that have passed rigorous safe sleep testing. Items like loungers, sleepers, nests, pods, hammocks, etc. are not safe for sleep,” the spokesperson said.

The standards for these three classifications were altered during the following years: crib in 2019, play yard in 2020, and bassinet/cradle in 2015. Therefore, if you owned one of these items manufactured before their year of change, you were advised to check with the manufacturer to make sure the products were still safe.

A good rule of thumb was that if the product was older than 10 years, then it most likely did not meet contemporary standard, the spokesperson said.

Caregivers can search to see if an item has been recalled on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s recall webpage.

Montgomery County residents can also take advantage of Public Health—Dayton & Montgomery County’s Cribs for Kids Program, which provided free cribs for eligible parents. You can call 937-224-3696 for more information.

To the families who lost an infant, Montgomery County Commission President Debbie Lieberman said, “Our hearts go out to all families who have experienced the loss of a precious child. We want to remind everyone to double check that the products they’re using are safe for sleep and haven’t been recalled.”