Legislation requiring a doctor's OK before child care providers put infants to sleep on their stomachs gained support Thursday from the statewide association of licensed in-home child care providers.

Right now, parents can give written permission to in-home daycare providers to place infants to sleep in positions other than on their backs, which is the nationally recognized best practice to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). A bill introduced Wednesday by a Faribault lawmaker would change the rules by requiring a doctor's written authorization before any alternative sleep position is used.

Reporter Brad Schrade discussed this proposal Thursday morning with Katy Chase, the executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association. She endorsed the bill.

“We’re very excited for that change,” Chase said. “It will decrease risk. It puts another piece in place that will possibly save lives."
The proposal by Rep. Patti Fritz comes in response to a Star Tribune investigation that has shown the number of infant deaths in Minnesota daycares has nearly doubled in the past five years. That spike coincides with a loosening of safe sleep standards five years ago. At the time, veering from state standards required a doctor's approval. But the Legislature in 2007 changed that and allowed providers to depart from safe sleep standards if parents gave written approval.
For two decades, the standard to reduce the risk of death while sleeping has been to place infants on firm cribs on their backs. In some cases uncovered by the newspaper, providers didn't follow that practice. The newspaper also found several instances in which parents reportedly only gave verbal permission to providers. The current law requires that they provide permission to providers using a state permission form and after reading information about SIDS risks and prevention.
Chase said her group hopes to push other safe sleep provisions in the coming year. The accepted standard for crib safety says that infants should not sleep with blankets, but state law is not clear on this practice, she said. Chase said her group hopes to make that clear through changes in the law.
"We'll work to firm this up even more," she said. 
Fritz said she does not think there is time to pass her proposal this year with the current legislative session winding down, but
she hopes to build momentum for next legislative session.

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