Louisiana (KADN) - Data from the Louisiana department of health shows Louisiana's infant mortality rate is higher than the national average - mainly stemming from sudden unexpected infant death.
My one-month-old niece passed away last Saturday from SUID and the loss of life is always tragic, even more so when a child is involved. The good news for parents is there are steps you can take to protect your little ones according to Doctor Scott Hamilton.
"It is pretty much almost a hundred percent preventable," he said.
Sudden unexpected infant death or SUID is a term used to describe the sudden and unexpected death of a baby under one years old. Hamilton said these deaths often occur while a baby is sleep.
"Their face gets in a place where they smother. Either they’re face down in a thick adult mattress, they’re face down in thick bed clothes, thick blankets or stuffed animals," he said. "They can’t do a push up and they can’t roll over purposefully to clear their airway and save themselves."
The most recent data from the LDH shows that an average of 462 infants died per year in Louisiana between 2017 and 2019. A staggering 79 percent of all infant deaths postpartum were due to SUID.
"The number one leading cause of death in infants under the age of one in Louisiana is accidental suffocation," said Chief investigator for the Calcasieu Parish Coroner's Office Charlie Hunter.
Hunter believes a lack of proper education can play a role in parents not knowing the dangers of improper sleep for their infant.
"People think literal. So what happens when you’re thinking of suffocation is you’re thinking something that completely obstructs the nose and the mouth," he said as he demonstrated with his hands. "In all actuality, that does not have to happen."
Hunter added that "if you have that compression on their body and their lungs can’t expand, they can suffocate."
Hamilton said there are preventative measures you can take as a parent to minimize the chances of tragedy.
"No thick bed clothes, no heavy blankets, no sheep skins to lay on," he said. "Think mattress is safe to lay on. One thin blanket, a snug sleeper, not a big huge thing they’re swimming in which can get all over their face."
Hunter used this analogy - you can run a red light five times and be fine. All it takes is that sixth time for tragedy to strike. When it comes to infants, it takes one night of improper sleep for the worst to happen.