Doctors worry about increase of infant deaths during winter months

Safe sleeping stressed for infants

SAN ANTONIO – With winter quickly approaching, so, too, are the temperatures to go along with it, and doctors said it's during these months that they see an increase in infant deaths.

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Dr. Sanji Garza-Cox, a neonatologist at the Children's Hospital of San Antonio, said it is important to take measure for "safe sleep" at least until the newborn is a year old.

Garza-Cox said over the last several years, there has been an increase in infant deaths, and that some of those deaths were preventable.

"What we see in Bexar County, a lot of families doing is the fact that they sleep in an inflatable mattress, next to a couch or next to another soft surface, and everybody sleeps on the same bed," Garza-Cox said. "Then, they use pillows and winter is coming, so everyone is going to use the fluffy, thick blankets, and when the child sleeps under blankets near a pillow, near a sibling, near a parent, anywhere where a child is not alone in a flat surface, the chances of suffocation are very high."

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Garza-Cox said she recommends "safe sleep" for newborns, and that includes having them on a flat bed with a firm mattress and tight-fitted sheet. Also, make sure they sleep on their backs.

"If the room is a little colder, or as the winter months come, every child is to sleep with one more layer than we are wearing," Garza-Cox said as she demonstrated the proper way to put a child to bed. "So, this little girl is wearing her little onesie and then her wrapping blanket."

After spending months at the hospital, Joe and Ursula Vaughan were able to take their twin girls, Olivia Mabelle and Vivian Pearl, home.

The girls were born 14 weeks premature, but they're doing fine now, and their parent said they are taking all the measures they can to keep them safe.

"You love them so much. All of these little tiny pieces just to keep them here are very important," Ursula Vaughan said.

Part of the preparations to take their children home included taking a sleep safety class.  

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"We had a great breakdown, a great class,” Joe Vaughan said while watching over his girls. “It systematically broke down steps in preventing that (suffocation), but as you see, we might not get that much sleep anyways."

About the Author:

Stephanie Serna is a weekday anchor on Good Morning San Antonio and GMSA at 9 a.m. She joined the KSAT 12 News team in November 2009 as a general assignments reporter.