Lynchburg sees uptick in infant sleep-related deaths this year

Expects hit the alarm button rather than snooze

LYNCHBURG, Va. – When it comes to sleeping babies, local child care experts want parents to wake up. Unsafe sleep is the leading cause of non-natural infant death in Virginia.

“There was double the number in 2020 so far than of the entire year of 2019,” said Tiffany Vasser of Lynchburg’s Child Protective Services.

There have been six deaths so far this year.

Lynchburg organizations united Tuesday to hit the alarm button rather than snooze.

October is safe sleep awareness month – meant to draw attention to the hidden dangers of SIDS -- or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The group points out causes, including secondhand smoke and suffocation, by sharing data from a 2018 study.

“The Virginia State Child Fatality Review Team determined 87% of non-natural infant deaths between 2014-2016 were sleep-related in nature,” said Shannon Miles of Centra.

Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema and Fire Chief Greg Wormser also had some advice for parents with young children.

“There should be no smoking near pregnant women or infants. We want to set strict rules for smoke-free homes and cars. We want to eliminate secondhand tobacco smoke from all places in which children and other nonsmokers spend time,” said Chief Zuidema.

“Babies should always sleep alone. You should always put them in a crib. The 2018 data showed that 85% of sleep-related deaths in the state of Virginia were tied to infants who were sleeping on a couch, a bed or some other inappropriate sleep surface,” Chief Wormser added.

Other things to keep in mind: using a firm sleep surface with a firm crib mattress covered by a fitted sheet and checking regularly for product recalls.

To spread awareness, Lynchburg officials are also using educational posters on public buses, distributing books to childcare facilities, and using utility bill inserts with resources for parents.

About the Author:

Tim Harfmann joined the 10 News team in September 2020 and works at the station's Lynchburg bureau.