Government warns that placing babies to sleep in adult beds places them in danger

Thursday, May 2nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Putting babies to sleep in adult beds exposes them to hazards that include suffocation and falls, government safety officials warned.

More than 60 children younger than 2 die each year after being placed to sleep in adult beds, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said. Nearly all the deaths involve children 12 months or younger who suffocate.

A campaign being announced Friday is intended to promote safe sleeping practices for babies.

``Many parents may be unaware of the hidden dangers,'' said Thomas Moore, the agency's acting chairman. ``We are warning parents that simply pushing an adult bed against a wall or lining the edges of a bed with pillows won't protect their babies. In fact, these practices place infants in danger.''

Between 1999 and 2001, 180 children younger than 2 were reported to have died while sleeping in adult beds, the agency said. Of that total, 38 were trapped between the bed and the wall or another object.

The agency did not release the names of victims. It described one incident where a 5-month-old girl sleeping with her parents in a waterbed got caught in the 4-inch space between the bed and a crib. The girl was suspended by her neck and died from a lack of air.

Some infant deaths reported involved suffocation from pillows or blankets. Other babies fell from beds and suffocated after landing in clothes or plastic bags. In one case, a child fell into a 5-gallon bucket and drowned.

Nearly one-third of the deaths in adult beds during that period were caused by an adult or another child laying on top of a baby, the commission said.

The agency said the number of deaths may be higher because its latest statistics are based on incomplete reports.

The safety campaign, undertaken by the government and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, seeks to educate expectant parents, day care providers, hospitals and health departments.

Since 1994, the agency has warned about the dangers of using soft bedding in cribs and putting infants to sleep on their stomachs.

Both are associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the name given for the sudden death of an infant younger than 12 months that remains unexplained after a complete investigation. It is the leading cause of death in infants between one month and 12 months.

The agency offered the following sleep safety tips:

_Do not place babies to sleep in an adult bed or on soft bedding.

_Place babies to sleep on their backs, not on their stomachs.

_Place them in a crib that meets current safety standards and has a firm, tight fitting mattress.

_Only use the mattress provided by the manufacturer and do not add a second one because children can suffocate in the spaces between them. Do not add soft bedding such as quilts, comforters, cushions and pillows.