Caregivers urged to learn how to reduce risks during Safe Sleep and SIDS Awareness Month

Health and safety advocates in Snohomish County are teaming up this month to educate parents and caregivers on ways they can reduce risks and keep babies safe while sleeping.

October is Safe Sleep and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. About 3,500 sleep-related infant deaths occur each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Snohomish County sees between three and 10 sleep-related infant deaths annually. This includes SIDS, sudden unexplained infant deaths (SUID), accidental suffocation, entrapment and other undetermined causes. Most of these deaths are preventable.

“After nearly 20 years of reviewing SUID cases, I’ve seen risk factors present repeatedly in nearly all infant deaths,” said Wendy Burchill, Snohomish County Child Death Review Coordinator at the Snohomish Health District. “It is so important for parents and caregivers to understand the risk of unsafe sleep, and that the risk is never worth the possible outcome. Losing a child is tragic.”

Research by the National Institute of Health shows unsafe sleep areas, such as those that include non-fitted sheets, blankets or stuffed toys, remain a leading cause of infant death.

“Losing a child is perhaps the most devastating experience a person can go through. SIDS is sadly one of the leading causes of death in infants ages 1 month to 1 year in the United States,” said Dr. James Lewis, health officer for the Snohomish Health District. “While some deaths from SIDS/SUID are likely related to underlying brain abnormalities or genetic factors, we can all learn safe infant sleep practices to help reduce the incidence of this terrible syndrome as much as possible. If you remember one thing from this, remember: back to sleep on a flat firm surface, every time.”

“A sleeping baby is a beautiful sight, especially to an exhausted parent. By creating a safe sleep space for your baby, you both can sleep easier,” said Shawneri Guzman, community outreach manager for South County Fire and Safe Kids Snohomish County Coordinator.

Tips for Sleep Safety, from Safe Kids:

– Place babies on their backs for naps and at night until they are 1 year old.

– Choose a firm mattress and fitted sheet for the baby’s crib, bassinet or pack-n-play.

– Dress baby in a wearable blanket, onesie or similar clothing for every sleep.

– Share your room, not your bed. Place crib, bassinet or pack-n-play near your bed.

– Follow manufacturer’s instructions to assemble your crib.

Free online child safety and CPR class

Learn more about infant safe sleep, along with other child safety tips, in a free online child safety and CPR class presented by South County Fire on Oct. 26, 6-7 p.m. Attendees will be eligible for a free sleep sack. Register in advance at

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