GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. The last thing a parent wants is for their kiddo to be in danger. We hold their hands when crossing the street and teach them not to talk to strangers -- but many parents overlook the dangers of sleeping.
According to the Mesa County Coroner’s Office, there have been nine infant deaths in the county related to the sleep environment since 2010 – four deaths just last year.
Mom of two Kristy Emerson learned an important lesson about the danger of an unsafe sleep environment.
"We swaddled our daughter for a very long time - longer than we should have and we had her swaddled and she rolled over,” said Emerson. “I woke up in the middle of the night and she was face down in the bassinet. It really scared me – I grabbed her and I shook her and she started crying which was a huge relief to me because it could have been a very different scenario."
"We felt it was important to try to get education out there for people to try to get this number back down,” said Mesa County Coroner’s Office Victor Yahn. “We prefer it to be zero.”
The Mesa County Child Fatality Team conducts a thorough review of all preventable child deaths in the county to better understand and implement intervention strategies. Members of the team stress the importance of not co-sleeping.
"The child needs to sleep in the room in their own sleeping area whether it's a bassinet, a crib,” said Yahn.
Never hold your child if you're feeling tired.
"If you can’t stay awake you have no guarantees that you’re gonna keep the baby in your arms or is not going to roll into you and suffocate," said Emerson.
The crib or bassinet needs to be free of all toys, decorations or extra blankets.
"People go and buy these really cute bumper pads and big thick quilts that are made for cribs, and they are unsafe,” said Emerson.
Emerson said a sleep sack is the best way to keep your child warm and safe while sleeping. Once the child gets older and is able to roll over, you need to stop swaddling them in the sleep sack so their arms can be free.
She said to always place your child on his or her back and a firm sleep surface - soft mattress pads have the potential to suffocate.
"This is very serious, as a mom, that could be your child," said Emerson.