Jonesboro Police Report Two Infant Deaths in One Week

JONESBORO --  Two babies die in one week.  It's a situation that Jonesboro Police want to prevent from happening again.  The deaths are not related to SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome--but rather something called "accidental asphyxiation."  Authorities say these deaths could have been prevented.

"Anytime I work an infant death it's very alarming, very disturbing and it just kind of stays with you,"  said Lt. Rick Elliott of the Jonesboro Police Department.  Lt. Elliott says both babies died as a result of positional asphysiation--basically suffication.  Jonesboro usually records eight to 10 infant deaths a year due to this.  Two occurred just this past week.  Three in the past two months.  That's too many, says Elliott--especially when they could have been prevented.

"We found one case where a mattress off a lounge chair was being used as a crib mattress," said Lt. Elliott.  "And the material in this lounge chair is a 100 percent polyfiber, which therefore allows the cushion to completely collapse and not support anything--much less the weight of a baby."

"They can get wedged," said Danae Sandusky, PACES Case Manager.  "You don't want them to block their airway."

Sandusky works with young parents as a Case Manager for PACES, or parenting and childbirth education services.

"No blankets, no pillows. A good firm mattress in the bed with just a sheet is plenty and all you need," said Sandusky.

He also warns parents not to put their babies in bed with them.  Always use a mattress designed for a crib. Never put your infant on a waterbed.  And keep pillows, comforters, blankets and stuffed animals out of their sleeping area.  Every baby should be put to sleep on their back--not their stomach.  Words of advice to all parents--but especially young ones.

"Anytime you're young and in high school, of course infant care is probably the last thing on your radar, said Kim Shumpert, Executive Director of PACES.  "Alot of the parents that we have, have done very little babysitting so they have to be brought up to speed pretty fast once they conceive."

Some parents --out of desperation from getting up and down with an infant through the night--put their baby in bed with them, and that's where the problem lies.

"The parent may roll over on them and to some degree, if the child's face gets pressed against the body, then again that's causing suffocation," said Lt. Elliott.

Authorities are taking this seriously.  In Utah, parents of an infant that died of positional asphyxiation were charged with murder.  Their first child died of the same thing five years prior.

"Some parents the guilt factor really gets to them, it's like did I do something to cause the death of my child?" explains Lt. Elliott.   "That is something most never get over or deal with."

One thing parents need to know: Don't smoke around your infant.  Many of the cases involving accidental asphyxiation involved an infant whose airways were congested and cigarette smoke was a factor in the home.