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Report: SA, New Braunfels led state in infant sleep-related deaths

DFPS: Babies need room to breathe

SAN ANTONIO – A report that reviewed child deaths from 2010-2012 found San Antonio and New Braunfels led the state with 17 sleep-related deaths among infants.

A joint effort by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the State Department of Health Services, the report analyzed about 700 child abuse deaths.

But when it came to children dying in their sleep, researchers said many cases were due to accidental suffocation or SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome.

John Lennan, DFPS spokesman, said of the 69 investigations conducted so far this year statewide, only three were ruled due to abuse or neglect, unlike the vast majority of those that were not, but all were children under the age of 1.

"Our youngest children are our most vulnerable and that's why we want to stress the ABC's of safe sleep," Lennan said.

He said the agency's "Room to Breathe" public awareness campaign teaches that "babies must sleep Alone, on their Backs and in Cribs."

The public service announcements urge parents to remove pillows, blankets, toys or anything else that could inhibit their child's breathing.

They also warn against a baby sharing a bed with siblings or parents who could fall asleep on top of them, trapping the child. The PSA's also caution against sofas that are either too soft or where babies can be lodged against a wall.

Dr. Lillian Liao, the pediatric trauma medical director at University Hospital, said, "At a very young age, they're not even capable of rolling. They have to be a few months before they know how to roll."

Liao said she too stresses the "back to sleep" approach, with babies sleeping on their backs, not their stomachs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

She said most of these cases are not neglect or abuse.

"The parents simply didn't have the education to know that babies need to sleep by themselves," Liao said.

The report calls for a strategic plan to reduce sleep-related deaths and other similar risks.

Liao said University Hospital already has "Baby U" that teaches parents and grandparents what they should know before taking home their new arrivals.