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It’s every parent’s nightmare: They’re taking care of their baby, doze off to sleep and wake up to find that their child is no longer alive, having been smothered.

Tuesday morning, a 2-week-old baby girl died in Detroit after sleeping with her mother. If trends hold in 2016, she will be one of about 140 babies in the state of Michigan who will die due to a sleeping-related death.

Erica Quealy, a spokeswoman with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, was asked for tips parents can use to keep infants safe while they sleep. One point Quealy emphasized: co-sleeping, or the practice of parents or siblings sleeping with an infant, puts babies at great risk.

Q: How big a problem are sleep-related deaths for babies in Michigan?

A: It varies each year, but the average is about 140 per year. That’s once almost every three days that a baby dies due to unsafe sleep; this is 100 percent preventable.

Parents don’t think it will ever happen to them. They’ll be snuggling their child and fall asleep, or will fall asleep breastfeeding, but there is a safe way to protect their child: Always put the baby to sleep on their back, in their own crib or bassinet, with no other adults or siblings.

Q: What should parents avoid?

A: Bumper pads, blankets and stuffed animals should not be in a sleep environment. Sleep sacks can be safe. Warm, footie pajamas are often all the infant needs. Often our inclination is to bundle them, but that can cause a suffocation risk.

Parents should not let babies sleep in adult beds or couches; one slight roll and the baby can become stuck in cushions, which is a suffocation risk. Adult bedding is also a suffocation risk.

A tight, fitted sheet should be the only thing in a crib.

Q: Does the state have any resources where parents can learn more?

A: We have different sections and resources for parents and professionals who work with babies; posters and brochures are viewable online or can be ordered in our store. We are encouraging pediatric and OBGYN offices to post them and share the message.

Again, babies are safest on their back, with nothing surrounding them. These deaths are always tragic, and they happen too frequently. They are 100 percent preventable.

jdickson@detroitnews.com

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