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WellSpan partners with York County Coroner to address sudden spike in infant deaths

June 28, 2022

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Stacy Balderston, WellSpan York Hospital neonatal intensive care unit nurse and discharge coordinator, shows how to safely swaddle a baby (left), and Dr. Michael Goodstein, WellSpan neonatologist, talks about safe sleep practices.

Stacy Balderston, WellSpan York Hospital neonatal intensive care unit nurse and discharge coordinator, shows how to safely swaddle a baby (left), and Dr. Michael Goodstein, WellSpan neonatologist, talks about safe sleep practices.

Dr. Michael Goodstein, WellSpan neonatologist; Victoria Diamond, senior vice president of WellSpan Health Central Region and president of WellSpan York Hospital; and Pam Gay, York County coroner, (from left) discuss the sudden increase in infant deaths in York County at a press conference at WellSpan York Hospital.

Dr. Michael Goodstein, WellSpan neonatologist; Victoria Diamond, senior vice president of WellSpan Health Central Region and president of WellSpan York Hospital; and Pam Gay, York County coroner, (from left) discuss the sudden increase in infant deaths in York County at a press conference at WellSpan York Hospital.

So far this year, York County has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of sudden unexpected infant death or SUID cases. Six cases have been reported since the first of the year.

“In an average year, we see about four or five cases of SUID in the county. We’ve already surpassed that number in just six months,” said Pam Gay, York County coroner. “The more education we can provide, the better chance we have in reducing this shocking number.”

According to national statistics, SUID affects about 3,500 infants each year.  Babies are most vulnerable between birth and 6 months of age.

Dr. Michael Goodstein, a WellSpan neonatologist and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Task Force on SIDS, said while there is no single cause of SIDS, there are many steps parents and caregivers can take to make a child’s sleeping environment as safe as possible.

“Children should be placed on their backs to sleep, in an uncluttered crib or an approved sleeping space with a firm, flat mattress,” said Dr. Goodstein. “Bed sharing significantly raises the risk of a baby’s injury or death — the best place for a baby is in their crib without any bumpers, blankets, or soft toys.”

Additional recommendations from Dr. Goodstein and the AAP:

  • Keep baby up to date on immunizations.
  • Offer a pacifier at sleep time.
  • Breastfeed for at least six months, if possible.
  • Do not use sitting devices for routine sleep.  These include car seats, strollers, swings, infant carriers, and infant slings. Avoid these, particularly for infants younger than 4 months.
  • Sleep in the same room, but not the same bed, as a new infant for the first six months.
  • Don’t use weighted swaddles, weighted clothing, or weighted objects on or near the baby. 
  • Babies and parents should avoid being exposed to nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, opioids, and illicit drugs.
  • Engage in supervised and awake tummy time to help baby development.

Each WellSpan hospital is a Safe Sleep certified hospital, recognized for following guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and for providing training programs for both healthcare teams and family caregivers.

For more on safe sleep and maternity care at WellSpan, visit WellSpan.org/Maternity.