19 infants died in Snohomish County from 2020-22 due to unsafe sleep

Oct 2, 2023, 5:20 PM

unsafe sleep...

Man puts sleeping baby into crib in nursery. (Photo by Stephen Marks/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Marks/Getty Images)

Babies are at a greater risk of dying by just going to bed than they are from car crashes, fires, abuse or anything else in Snohomish County.

“Unfortunately, that is real,” Shawneri Guzman, community outreach manager for South County Fire, told KIRO Newsradio. “From 2020 to 2022, Snohomish County lost 19 infants because of unsafe sleep.”

Guzman said these cases are often referred to as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but the county’s child death review team — which the fire department is a part of — found that many were preventable as most died from either suffocation or accidental strangulation.

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Guzman said a baby should always sleep alone — on its back — in a bassinet or crib.

“Having a tight-fitted sheet, making sure the crib is lying flat and not on an incline, making sure it’s free of blankets and pillows and stuffed animals and other things that can cause suffocation,” Guzman said in regards to avoiding an accident with an infant.

She added it’s generally safer to keep the baby’s crib in its parents’ or guardians’ room until the baby is at least one year old. She said infant deaths caused by unsafe sleep practices have been increasing nationwide since the onset of the pandemic. It’s unclear why, but she points to the pandemic putting a lot of pressure on families.

“When we’re tired and stressed, we don’t always make the best decisions and we do tend to cut corners on safety,” Guzman said. “That’s likely a possibility, but we will probably never know for sure.”

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She said South County Fire is trying to get the word out about hazardous sleep habits because often when a baby dies in that way, the public doesn’t hear about it.

“If a child dies in a house fire or a car crash, you’re traditionally going to hear that,” Guzman said. “But when a child dies in a home (because) of an unsafe sleep environment, that’s never going to hit the news.”

South County Fire has additional safety tips to view here.

Heather Bosch is an award-winning anchor and reporter on KIRO Newsradio. You can follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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19 infants died in Snohomish County from 2020-22 due to unsafe sleep