DOH, DCYF fighting sleep-related infant deaths in RI

Special Report: Sleeping beside your baby is not safe, health experts say »

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — At a meeting of the Rhode Island Children’s Cabinet Monday morning, representatives of the state Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) discussed efforts to reduce the number of infants who die due to sleep-related incidents.

Part of the plan is to raise awareness about the importance of babies sleeping safely and on their own. Back in May, state health officials announced findings that a 7-month-old girl who’d been found unresponsive had been asphyxiated due to overlay — a person rolling on top of or against the infant during sleep.

“They died because their caregivers put them in unsafe sleeping positions, and again, it’s not a DCYF issue. Families across the state have had experience with this — many who have never been known to the department,” Director of the R.I. DCYF Trista Piccola said.

Joseph Wendleken, a Health Department spokesman, agreed that babies need to have their own sleeping space. In the past two years, Wendleken said the state has seen eight “co-sleeping” deaths.

DCYF said they are working with their offices and nearby hospitals to ensure the organization can get a unified message out to the community.

“People look at an image of a baby sleeping on a mattress by themselves, and someone said it during the presentation, ‘it looks very cold,'” Piccola said. “But actually what we want to paint a picture of is ‘it’s very, very safe.'”