CONCORD - Stay-at-home orders appear to be leading some parents to consume more alcohol and sleep more while housebound, putting infants at risk, the state's Office of Child Advocate said on Friday.
In a press statement, OCA Director Moira O'Neill said they have received reports of two infant deaths since February that may be associated with unsafe sleep practices, prompting her to publicly urge parents to ensure safe sleep practices with infants by always placing them on their back when putting them down to sleep and to never sleep with them.
She said in recent months, these deaths are on the rise in New Hampshire and across the region.
O'Neill told The Rochester Voice that reports from staff as well as monitoring of social media indicate an increased consumption of alcohol in general since the stay-at-home order was enacted by the governor last month.
"Together, those two factors increase the risk of unsafe care and sleeping practices with infants," she said in the press release. "The likelihood of napping on the sofa or co-sleeping with an infant may be on the increase while families wait out the COVID-19 crisis."
She said DHHS data shows the two leading causes of sleep-related infant deaths are soft bedding and bed sharing.
Some 3,500 infants die in the United States annually from sudden unexplained infant death.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics is quite clear on the importance of safe sleep environments, especially in the first six months of life," O'Neill said.
She urged parents and other caregivers to follow their simple guidance:
- Back to sleep for every sleep. Infants should always sleep on their backs
- Use a firm sleep surface to avoid indenting or creating pockets
- Breastfeed whenever possible and return the infant to a separate sleep area when done
- Share the room but not the sleep surface with infants
- Keep soft objects and loose bedding away from an infant's sleep area
- Offer a pacifier at nap and bedtime
- Avoid smoke exposure
- Avoid alcohol or other substances when caring for an infant
- Avoid overheating
For information and guidance in safe sleep, resources are available at New Hampshire's COVID-19 Parent Resource Page: https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/covid19/covid-19-safe-sleep.pdf and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended Healthychildren.org website for helping your baby sleep safely https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Sleep-Soundly-While-Baby-Sleeps-Safe.aspx