State health officials are urging parents and caregivers to follow basic safe-sleep rules for babies in the wake of an analysis showing that nearly all of the 56 sudden unexplained infant deaths in Minnesota last year were attributable to unsafe sleeping environments.
Whether in homes, day-care centers or other locations, 52 infant deaths in 2014 involved sleep-related causes such as babies sleeping in beds with parents or siblings, lying on their stomachs, or sleeping with loosefitting sheets, blankets or toys that presented suffocation hazards.
Noting that such deaths have declined sharply in licensed family child-care facilities since the state increased training and attention to the problem three years ago, state officials encouraged parents and caregivers to adhere to simple steps such as placing infants to sleep on their backs.
“We can save dozens of infants a year by supporting communities, retailers, parents, grandparents and caregivers in their efforts to have infants sleep alone on their backs in safety-approved cribs free of pillows and blankets,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, state health commissioner.
The analysis was released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Department of Human Services.
A 2012 Star Tribune investigation found that infant deaths in child-care homes had risen sharply in the previous decade and helped draw attention to the problem of risky sleep positions for infants.
Deaths in child care dropped from 11 in 2011 to one last year.
Sudden unexplained infant deaths, or SUIDs, are a relatively new category used by public health researchers to describe infant deaths linked to accidental suffocations as well as those commonly labeled as SIDS due to a lack of identifiable cause.