Pasco County baby deaths highlight dangers of co-sleeping with baby

Unsafe sleep is the leading cause of death among Florida babies

SARASOTA, FL  (WFLA) Two Pasco County babies suffocated to death after their parents rolled over them while sleeping. So officials are desperately trying to warn parents about the dangers of sleeping with their babies.

Unsafe sleeping practices rank as the number one cause of death for babies in Florida. So experts say it’s important to remember the ABC’s- babies should be alone, on their back, and in a crib.

Last year, more than 130 babies died in Florida because of unsafe sleeping practices. That could be caused by a parent accidentally rolling over the baby. It also can happen if the baby suffocates on blankets, or if it chokes while lying on its stomach.

The Executive Director the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County Shon Ewens said, “When a baby is so small they’re not developed enough yet to be able to move their heads if they’re being suffocated, so instant death can happen.”

Laura McIntyre with the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County said, “They’re rebreathing the carbon dioxide. They don’t have an ability to turn their head to get the oxygen they need.”

McIntyre is tasked with studying the causes of local baby deaths. She says in many unsafe sleep deaths, the parents were not informed or could not afford the proper products to protect their babies. “You know these parents love their babies. No one wants their babies to die,” said McIntyre.

In the Tampa Bay area, the Florida Department of Children and Families report that four Pinellas county babies and three Polk county babies died because of unsafe sleep. But many cases are still being investigated, so the number of local unsafe sleep deaths is likely much higher. But this is easily preventable.

Ewens said, “The safest sleep for a baby to be is in a crib or bassinet alone and on their backs.”

Officials say you should have the baby lie on a tightly fitted sheet, and the baby should not have a blanket, toys, or bumpers in the crib.

To keep the baby warm, there are special products called sleep sacks, which is basically a onesie that wraps around the child to keep it warm without risk of suffocation.

Ewens explained, “Instead of the blanket getting caught on them or wrapping them up very tight they’re nice and warm and they won’t have any problems with breathing.”

Officials say parents can never be too careful when it comes to their baby’s lives. “You want to snuggle with them [at night,] but there’s plenty of time to do that when you’re awake,” said McIntyre.

Experts say parents should have their babies sleep on their backs until it’s around 6 months to a year old. Each baby grows and develops differently, so if you have questions you should ask your doctor.

There are also Healthy Start Coalitions all over Tampa Bay that can provide resources and tools to parents to prevent unsafe sleep deaths. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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