A growing number of infant sleep-related deaths in York County have renewed efforts among health officials to remind parents of safe sleeping habits for their children.

So far, seven infants younger than 1 year have died in sleep-related situations in 2014, said York County Coroner Pam Gay. That's more than the annual totals for the past 10 years, when the most deaths totaled 6.

"We've noticed an increased trend; unfortunately, I would say, even a spike (in the deaths)," Gay said.

Case spike: Some of those cases will be result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS; others might be accidental suffocation. But many infant deaths go unexplained, Gay said, which is frustrating for families and health officials.

Most of the cases this year are still under review, she said.

But Gay's office, York County Cribs for Kids, PA SAFE Kids and the Pennsylvania American Academy of Pediatrics are partnering to raise awareness about safe sleeping habits for young children.

Safe sleep tips: Dr. Michael Goodstein shared safe sleeping habits for infants that have proven to reduce the number of sleep-related infant deaths. Goodstein is a neonatologist at Wellspan's York Hospital and the director of the York County Cribs for Kids program. They include the following:

•Infants should sleep in a crib or bassinet, even during afternoon naps.


•Parents should be careful their baby does not become overheated. Some unexplained deaths happened over the winter months when babies were bundled too much, he said. Typically, infants only need one more layer of warmth than adults for sleep.

•Blankets should either be swaddled tightly around the baby, or tucked tightly into three sides, with the blanket no higher than the baby's armpits.

•Babies should always be put to sleep on their back, the recommendation for 20 years, Goodstein added.

Other safety measures: Goodstein said some parents are still hesitant to lay their children on their backs to sleep, afraid if the babies vomit they will choke. But biology doesn't support that, he said.

Children's airways are at the highest point when they sleep on their backs, Goodstein said. If they do spit up during sleep, gravity will draw that back down their esophagus, the lowest point in their throat.

But if children are on their stomachs and the airway is at the lowest point, the risk of choking is much greater, he said.

And Goodstein advised against anything inside the crib except for the baby and well-tucked blankets, if necessary. Bumpers and decorative pillows increase the risk for accidental suffocation.

"If you want to decorate things, decorate the room to show people how much you care about your baby," he said.

The Cribs for Kids program provides safe playpens for families who might not have access to a safe sleeping environment for their children. Parents in need of a safe crib can call 717-812-7427.

— Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.