Winter months lead to increase in unsafe sleep deaths in children, DPS says

Each year, Texas CPS sees an average of 158 unsafe sleep deaths in children

SAN ANTONIO – The colder weather months in Texas can be a dangerous time, especially for infants.

Rachel Galvan, a child safety specialist for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, says it’s heartbreaking to read the reports each year related to unsafe sleep investigations during these winter months.

“I can feel through the words, the pain and anguish that the family has gone through when they are experiencing this type of fatality. And it can be preventable by taking a few safety measures,” she said.

It’s as simple as A-B-C. Babies should sleep, “A” alone, on their “B” back and in a “C” crib to help reduce their chance of death, Galvan explains.

“First-time moms or new moms, you want to make the bedding really, really cute and put everything matching, including bumpers and stuffed animals and things like that, but really try and avoid all of that,” Galvan said.

Each year, Texas CPS sees an average of 158 unsafe sleep deaths. The numbers increase in the winter months between December and February.

Since December 1st, the state reports 31 unsafe sleep death investigations and 12 of them are in Region 8, which includes Bexar County. Last year, there were 16 cases investigated in Region 8.

DFPS reports the following number of deaths in the last 5 years.

  • FY 2016: 159
  • FY 2017: 163
  • FY 2018: 163
  • FY 2019: 142
  • FY 2020: 163

Galvan says there’s been a greater emphasis by multiple agencies and hospitals to educate families about these dangers. But, she said a lot of it is cultural.

“It’s a generational practice where families do sleep closely with all the siblings, the children and both parents are all sleeping together,” she said. But, that puts the baby in harm’s way.

Swaddles should be avoided and sleep sacks should be used instead. Basinets should be free of toys, and blankets.

“You may believe that you’re conscious enough to hear the baby or check on the baby. And sometimes fatigue may play a factor with the caregivers,” she said.

Families who are in need of a crib or a basinet can call 211 for further assistance.


About the Authors: