The next time you lay an infant down to sleep, you may want to take a closer look at where they're sleeping. Blankets, stuffed animals, even sleeping with a parent may seem comfortable, but could be deadly for a young child. It’s an ongoing problem in Kern County, and child safety officials are trying to raise awareness.
About ten infants a year die in Kern County, largely due to cribs cluttered with items like blankets and stuffed animals.
"You have an infant that dies suddenly, they're in their sleep, they're typically sleeping. The parent wakes up and finds them unresponsive," said Jane Yadon, Chairperson of the Kern County Child Death Review Team.
It's known as Sudden Unexpected Infant Death or SUID and is similar to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. The condition is still a mystery, but Yadon says where an infant sleeps can play a role. Items in a crib or sleeping next to a parent could cause a young infant to suffocate.
"An infant that young does not have the physiologic ability to turn themselves back and forth," Yadon said.
Infant mortality rates are a problem for the area. Kern County has the 7th worst infant mortality record statewide due to prematurity, congenital anomalies and unexpected infant deaths. The Kern County Network for Children says there are common reasons for when unexpected deaths happen.
"Some of it may be just mom and dad want to sleep with baby. They roll over in their sleep and unknowingly their child dies. Sometimes it's poor sleeping, they have them sleeping face down in a crib with too much stuff," said Tom Corson, Executive Director of the Kern County Network for Children.
Corson says with winter coming, parents are more likely to make mistakes.
"As the weather gets cooler, there's a tendency to want to cuddle up with that little one. Just know that little one is safer alone in a crib," said Corson.
They are safest in an empty crib, with only a tucked in blanket and an infant resting on his or her back. The American Academy of Pediatrics say pacifiers also help reduce unexpected deaths by helping infants learn to wake themselves up better.