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Summit Health Officials Concerned about Jump in Sleep Related Infant Deaths

A father with an infant
Summit County public health experts report a spike in sleep related infant deaths. They urge parents not to bring babies into bed with them to sleep.

Health experts are encouraging Summit County parents to follow safe sleep guidelines after a large increase in the number of sleep-related, infant deaths.

The County used to see an average of seven such deaths per year, going back to 2013. In 2019 that number doubled to 14 and, so far, 2020 shows no signs of improvement.

Summit County's maternal child health epidemiologist says the main danger to infants is parents taking them into their bed. Ndidi Edeh-Larberg says black babies are at double the risk for sleep-related deaths as white infants, largely because of a cultural belief that they sleep safer this way.

"I implore parents and families to use that crib or that pack 'n play because it is proven to be safer for their infant to sleep," Edeh-Larberg said.

Edeh-Larberg says babies can die from having their airways blocked by parents accidentally rolling on them or getting tangled in bedding.


In a press release, the health department notes that the safest place for your baby to sleep is in the room where you sleep, but NOT in your bed. They urge parents to take the following precautions to protect infants from sleep-related death:

  • Never place babies to sleep on adult beds, chairs, sofas, recliners, waterbeds, pillows, cushions or soft surfaces.
  • Dress your baby in sleep clothing, such as a sleep sack and do not use a blanket.
  • Avoid letting the baby get too hot. Keep room temperatures in a range comfortable for a lightly clothed adult.
  • Breastfeeding is recommended to help reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
  • Once breastfeeding is well established, consider using a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. 
  • Avoid smoke exposure. Place the crib in an area that is always smoke-free. 
  • Talk to those who care for your baby, including child care providers, family, and friends, about placing your baby to sleep on their back for every sleep. 

Health officials also urge women to obtain regular prenatal care to reduce the risk of SIDS even before birth. They also encourage pregnant women to avoid alcohol and illicit drug use while pregnant and after the baby is born, make sure infants receive all recommended vaccinations and facilitate development with supervised, awake tummy time for the baby.

More tips to protect families from infant loss can be found at SafeSleep.Ohio.gov.