Infant sleep-related deaths rising in the Tampa Bay area

Posted at 3:06 AM, Mar 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-29 09:45:48-04

Experts call it preventable, but infant sleep-related deaths are rising.

"It's the most heart breaking that can happen to the family."

Twenty-eight infants died in the Tampa Bay area in 2017 from unsafe sleep practices. It is the most since 2011.

Experts say majority of these deaths involve co-sleeping. Infants are 40 times more likely to die in an adult bed than their own crib. 

"It's safe sleep and safe caregiving. Both of those things kind of work together," said Jane Murphy, Executive Director of Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County.

The Prevent Needless Deaths campaign is once again urging parents and caregivers to learn the risks and share safe sleep practices. 

"I think one of those issues happened because of the hurricane," said Murphy. "There were folks that had to leave where they normally are. They were staying with family, family came to stay with them, and babies may have been displaced."

The Prevent Needless Deaths campaign advises parents and caregivers to follow the five following safe sleep practices for infants:

  1. Practice the ABCs of safe sleep. The safest way for infants to sleep is Alone on their Backs in a Crib. This minimizes the risk of the infant suffocating, especially if they have not yet developed neck muscle control.
  2. Bring the crib into the parent or caregiver’s room. Sharing a room with a child offers almost all of the same benefits of sharing a bed, but without the risks. It’s recommended to bring the baby’s crib, or a smaller bassinet, into the parents’ room for the first year of the baby’s life.
  3. Be prepared for naptime and bedtime away from home. If a child sleeps at someone else’s home, such as with grandparents or other caretakers, make sure they have the proper sleeping arrangements like a crib or pack-n-play with a fitted sheet. Do not use a blow-up mattress, which also poses a significant danger to infants.
  4. Follow crib setup recommendations. A crib’s mattress should be firm and fit snugly inside the crib’s frame. Crib sheets should fit tightly around the mattress. A baby’s sleeping area should be free of blankets, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, sleep positioners and toys.
  5. Learn from the past. As more information becomes available, parents and caregivers must let go of some outdated practices in order to provide children with the safest environment possible for sleeping. Habits about car seats and lead paint changed; it’s now time to change co-sleeping habits.

You can learn more about safe sleeping practices for infants by visiting

If you or someone you know cannot afford a crib or safe place for a baby to sleep, you can reach out to the Healthy Start Coalition of Hillsborough County by calling (813) 233-2800.