BEND, OR -- Local health care providers and county public health officials are working together to raise awareness of a disturbing trend: a rise in sleep-related infant deaths. Dr. Logan Thomas Clausen is the Chief Medical Officer for Central Oregon Pediatric Associates (COPA). She says an upcoming social media campaign is in response to a new regional report, "We saw 14 children in Deschutes County die of suffocation or strangulation while sleeping; and five of these deaths alone occurred in 2016. That’s compared to one in 2012." She adds, "We do know what puts babies at high risk for having sleep-related death: sleeping on a soft surface, having any second-hand smoke exposure or sleeping on your stomach."
Lisa Goodman, with St. Charles Health System, tells KBND News, "The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, just two or three weeks ago, responded to an infant sleep-related death. So, this is happening in our community and we know how we can stop it." Dr. Clausen says babies are at highest risk between the ages of four and six months. "The general recommendation is to have the baby sleep with their parents in the same room but in a separate sleeping area, with a firm mattress, until somewhere between six months and one year of age. Basically, after a year, the rate of SIDS is very, very low." Sleep-related infant deaths fall under the umbrella of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also called "SIDS."
Dr. Clausen acknowledges it can be tough for parents to focus on safe sleep practices, "It’s hard when you’re sleep deprived. I mean, I’m a mom, too and I know that those first few weeks are really a struggle. And, teaching safe sleep positioning is something that babies – it’s a skill you have to sort of teach. And, it’s hard but it’s so worth it because it is such a risk factor that we really need to mitigate."
Spearheaded by KIDS Center and St. Charles Health System, a collaborative effort is now underway to educate families via social media and in clinics, through the end of June. COPA, Summit Medical Group, Mosaic Medical and public health departments in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties are also taking part.