District Attorney Press Release






To read past CFRT reports click here, here, here, here and here.



Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore and County Executive Andrew Spano announced that Westchester County’s Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT) has completed its sixth independent Child Fatality Review Report.


The Westchester County CFRT reviews the death of any child who was provided services by the Westchester County Department of Social Services and/or agencies under contract with Westchester County or whose death was the result of suspicious circumstances.


Westchester County was the fourth county in New York State to have an approved CFRT. 


Westchester’s Team is the first team in the State to successfully write its own state mandated child fatality reports.  Westchester County remains the only county in the State to examine child deaths beyond the scope of matters required by state law for the purpose of preparing independent reports that proactively address issues related to these child deaths. 


By law the CFRT includes representatives from the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, the Westchester County Department of Social Services (Child Protective Services), the Westchester County Office of Medical Examiner, the Westchester County Attorney’s Office, the Westchester County Department of Health, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, a forensic pediatrician, members of the police department(s) who handled the investigation of a specific case and emergency medical services. 


Our local CFRT also includes representatives of the Westchester County Mental Health Department and Victims Assistance Services.


New York State Social Services Law requires the death of a child to be reviewed with regard to the services provided by the Westchester County Department of Social Services and agencies under contract with Westchester County.  The Westchester County Child Fatality Review Team (“CFRT”) undertook and completed the required review with regard to an infant child who died in Westchester County


The Team’s findings are reflected in a Fatality Review Report prepared pursuant to New York State Social Services Law (“SSL”) §§ 20(5) and 422-b.  In recognition of the goal of preventing future child fatalities, the CFRT has pledged to review each child fatality and make all appropriate recommendations beyond that which is required by state statute.  


The Team recently reviewed the fatality of a two month old baby who was put to sleep on a crescent shaped infant pillow and discovered unresponsive lying prone (on the tummy) in the “hole” of the pillow.  It was one of three child fatality deaths in 2006 that involved a crescent shaped pillow found near the infant’s body.


Two of the cases reviewed by the Westchester Child Fatality Review Team involved infants found propped up or resting in some fashion on crescent shaped pillows. 


A third case involved the death of a child in a crib with a crescent shaped pillow in close proximity to the child. 


All three child fatalities were determined by the Medical Examiner to be the result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  SIDS is defined as the "sudden death of an infant under one year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history" (Willinger, M., James, L.S., and Catz, C. "Defining the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Deliberations of an Expert Panel Convened by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development." Pediatric Pathology 11:677-684, 1991).


While these deaths remain unexplained and could not be causally connected to the use of a crescent shaped pillow, it is significant that each case involved the improper use of the crescent shaped pillow in the infant’s sleeping environment.


Caregivers should use crescent shaped pillows cautiously and, in particular, should avoid any use of such products as sleep aides for babies.


The Child Fatality Review Team previously issued recommendations concerning safe sleeping practices for babies and specifically advised caregivers to provide a sleep surface that is flat and firm and free of pillows, blankets, toys and stuffed animals.


Some common terms for crescent shaped pillows, include nursing pillows or well-known trade marked pillows such as the Boppy ™.


These types of pillows are intended by the manufacturers to:


  • Assist caretakers in feeding babies by providing support to reduce strain on the arms, shoulders and neck;


  • Prop babies as the trunk muscles get stronger so a baby can practice sitting;


  • Support a baby during caretaker supervised “tummy time” whereby a baby plays and exercises on the tummy to develop the upper body strength needed for crawling.


The Boppy™ is tagged with a warning and the no symbol “ plainly cautioning against the use of the product for babies to use for sleeping. 

Additionally, the Boppy™ website specifically states:  “We do not recommend using any of the Boppy™ pillow products for babies while sleeping” http://www.boppy.com/about/faq


In addition, caregivers should avoid use of infant pillows banned by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. 16 CFR 1500.18(a)(16)(i)(A)-(E) bans any infant pillow or product that shares the following characteristics:


  • Has a flexible fabric covering;

  • Is loosely filled with a granular material including, but not limited to, polystyrene beads or pellets;

  • Is easily flattened;

  • Is capable of conforming to an infant’s body or face; and

  • Intended or promoted for use by children under one year of age.          


Since the fatality reviewed in this report involved a child left to sleep in a prone (on the tummy) position, the Team reiterates that babies be placed in a supine (on the back) position while sleeping as espoused by the Back to Sleep Campaign sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the SIDS Alliance, and the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs. 


Further, the Team urges parents and caregivers to avoid the use of crescent shaped pillows as sleep surfaces and to put infants to sleep only on surfaces free of soft bedding, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals and toys. 


As part of the ongoing extensive co-sleeping public education campaign concerning safe sleeping practices, for babies and children, the Team shall make the recommendations of this report widely available to Westchester caregivers and parents.  


 To read past CFRT reports click here, here, here, here and here.