NORTH CAROLINA, USA — The lives of hundreds of babies across the U.S. are lost every year because of sleep-related deaths. President Joe Biden recently took action, banning the sale of sleep products connected to infant deaths under the newly signed Safe Sleep for Babies Act of 2021.
In North Carolina, 664 infant deaths were reported from 2015 to 2019. There were 43 incidents related to sudden infant death syndrome and 621 associated with unsafe sleep, according to the state’s Child Fatality Task Force.
“The bottom line is our [North Carolina] sleep-related deaths are higher than the national average. And we are just not adequately funding efforts to reduce these deaths,” said Megan Canady, coordinator for Safe Sleep NC.
The term "unsafe sleep" refers to anything that would mean that an infant is not sleeping in a safe environment.
“It's the leading cause of death among infants from the first 30 days, from one month to 12 months,” Canady said. “It really is a huge issue in North Carolina.”
It’s okay to share a room with your baby but not the same bed; Canady said babies should have their own sleep space, chiefly in a Consumer Product Safety Commission-approved crib or bassinet with a firm and flat surface free of any loose or soft items.
“If they're sleeping with soft bedding -- if they have pillows or blankets around them, even bumper pads which parents often buy thinking it's a good safety precaution -- but all of those are things that are unsafe sleep,” she said.
The task force is asking the state government to increase the nonprofit’s funding from $45,000 to $250,000.
“We have people who are eager and ready to step up their safe sleep practices and interventions,” said Canady. “But they need the support to be able to make that happen through training for their staff resources, and also targeted approaches for those families that might be at higher risk.”
That is funding Canady said is needed to save lives.
“Most of these deaths can be prevented, or the risk can be greatly reduced, and more resources are desperately needed to make sleep safer for every baby in North Carolina," she said.