Sleep-related infant deaths down in Janesville

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File photo.

JANESVILLE (AP) – Janesville police believe their partnership with health care providers is helping to prevent infant deaths attributed to unsafe sleeping circumstances.

From 2005 to 2010, a dozen babies less than a year old in Janesville died in their sleep. The numbers bothered Detective Erik Goth, who said most of those deaths were preventable.

He said many of the infants were either co-sleeping with a parent or sleeping on their stomachs, and noted that seven deaths were officially classified as suffocations.

So he started a partnership with area hospitals to help teach prenatal classes that include safe sleeping practices. Detective Christopher Buescher, who lost a brother to sudden infant death syndrome in 1973, stepped in to help.

Together, the detectives take part in about 50 classes a year. Their presentation is part of a standard prenatal class and they concentrate on safe sleeping positions and environments.

Since 2011, Janesville has had no preventable, sleep-related infant deaths, the Janesville Gazette reported.

“We’ve been lucky. That’s the worst call that anyone wants to go to,” Buescher said. “I’d like to think it (the class) makes a difference.”

Goth said he’s trying to change the mindset of parents.

“If a new parent could consider sleeping infant deaths as a household accident as opposed to a medical anomaly … we could reduce the number of those deaths,” Goth said.

But he said the children he is most concerned about belong to parents who don’t educate themselves. Those who attend the classes are already making efforts to properly care for their newborns, but others might not be, he said.

Goth encourages those in the classes to spread the knowledge on safe sleeping practices.

“Back in 1992 – that’s when I had my son – I would have appreciated having someone come and talk to me about this. It would have been beneficial,” Goth said.

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