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Westchester DA Urges Safe Sleeping After 26 Babies Die

Janet DiFiore (left), Jennifer Canter (middle) and President of Lawrence Hospital Center Edward Dinan, worked together on a campaign to educate parents about safe sleeping habits for infants.
Janet DiFiore (left), Jennifer Canter (middle) and President of Lawrence Hospital Center Edward Dinan, worked together on a campaign to educate parents about safe sleeping habits for infants. Photo Credit: Paul Bufano

BRONXVILLE N.Y. – In the past six years there have been 26 infant fatalities in Westchester County as a result of unsafe sleeping conditions.

The Westchester County District Attorney's Office and eight hospitals launched a public health campaign  Tuesday to combat the trend and educate parents about safe sleeping habits for infants. They unveiled the campaign at Lawrence Hospital Center in Bronxville.

The campaign’s main component is a six-minute video titled “The ABC’s of Safe Sleeping,” narrated by Jennifer Canter, the director of child protection for the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center and the Westchester County Child Fatality Review Team forensic pediatrician.

In the video, Canter explains that a baby should: sleep alone, on its back and in an empty crib. The practices are based on guidelines established by the American Academy of Pediatrics .

"What we now know about safe sleep is much different than what we did years ago," said Canter. "We are taking the lead with safe sleep in Westchester County, and eventually want to expand our efforts throughout New York."

The fatality review team was established in 2006 to review the suspicious deaths of children in Westchester County. The team investigated the deaths of 63 children, and found 26 occurred while the infants were in unsafe sleeping environments.

All 26 of the infants were just weeks to a few months old, said Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore.

A number of troubling similarities in the deaths became evident, said DiFiore: the use of inappropriate bedding, the use of pillows or stuffed animals in the sleeping area and sleeping in an adult bed with one or more other individuals.

“These are all tragic deaths not only because of their age and vulnerability, but also because their deaths were preventable,” DiFiore said. “That is why we are committed to communicating this potentially life-saving information before the new parent or parents leave the hospital.”

Junlis Ortiz was one of Lawrence Hospital's newest mothers and said she found the video very informative.

"I thought the video was so good because these are things I wouldn't have known otherwise," said Ortiz.

"How could I possibly know that I shouldn't put toys in my baby's crib when my mother had so many in with me? I honestly didn't think this was such a big issue, but I can't be any more grateful knowing that my baby will now be safe."

The hospitals participating in the campaign are:

  • Hudson Valley Hospital Center.
  • Lawrence Hospital Center.
  • Westchester Medical Center; Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center.
  • Northern Westchester Hospital.
  • Phelps Memorial Hospital.
  • St. John’s Riverside Medical Center.
  • Sound Shore Medial Center of Westchester.
  • White Plains Hospital Center.