The birth of a child is a life changing joyous event for families, and one that brings new challenges for parents. As a father and your District Attorney, I want to share with you information that I have learned from the work of our Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT) here in Westchester about the importance of safe sleeping environments.

The Westchester County CFRT has reviewed approximately 80 child fatalities since its inception over 10 years ago. Since 2008, 38 percent of the cases had identified an unsafe sleeping environment. This statistic climbs to 60 percent for child fatalities under the age of one. This is far too many deaths where an unsafe sleeping environment that includes pillows, stuffed animals, or co-sleeping with an adult were present during the investigation of a child fatality.  While it doesn’t mean that the unsafe sleeping practice was necessarily the cause or death, the CFRT recognized it was present and of a concern during their review.

To prevent these unnecessary deaths, the County initiated a “Safe Sleep Campaign” in October 2016 to educate the people of Westchester County about the ABC’s of Safe Sleep. Members of the CFRT, including my office, participated in this campaign. I am committed as your District Attorney to continue to educate parents on the importance of a safe sleeping environment for our children.

The ABCs of Safe Sleep, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, are that the safest way for babies to sleep is Alone, on their Backs, and in a Crib. I encourage you to watch the video sponsored by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and the New York State Department of Health, which explains and demonstrates the simple safe sleeping ABCs. Follow these safe sleeping rules for your baby:

A

  • Babies should always sleep alone in a crib
  • Never with adults or siblings
  • On a surface that is flat and firm
  • No pillows, blankets, toys or stuffed animals

B

  • Always place the baby on their back
  • No sleeping on their sides or stomach
  • Avoid clothing that overheats the baby
  • Use tightly fitted sheets with no blankets

C

  • Baby should sleep in a safe and separate crib
  • Use only cribs, cradles or bassinets approved for sleeping babies.
  • Keep the baby’s room a comfortably cool temperature.
  • Never allow the baby to sleep on the couch

In 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new law that requires that hospitals and birth centers must include the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics relating to safe sleep, including sleep space, sleep position, and discussion on how to reduce the risk of infant deaths through safe sleep practices with other important information previously provided to maternity patients. This information may take the form of a video or a leaflet.

As District Attorney, I am proud to be working with the CFRT and the County Executive to improve child safety and continue to educate parents on the ABCs of safe sleeping and keeping their babies safe here in Westchester.