MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - How you sleep could cost your baby his or her life. The American Academy of Pediatrics says most parents put their children in danger every night and don't even realize it.
Katy Bridges lost her 2-month-old son, Walt, in 2011.
"Sheer horror. It's a horrific thing," she explained. "We think he rolled into the bumper pad. His face must have gotten pressed in so he couldn't breathe," the mom went on.
Each year 3,500 babies die suddenly. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that up to 60 percent of these deaths are from co-sleeping, unsafe sleeping, or accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed.
"For the most part, these are preventable deaths," explains Amy Stratton with the Alabama Department of Public Health. Alabama has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation. In 2014, 109 babies died from sleep-related causes in the state.
Stratton says the baby, "was either asleep on their stomach or wedged on something called a boppy, or some type of elevation material, were sleeping in the bed with siblings or parents. Then you have the accidental strangulation which includes the rollover, parents rolling over, or strangulation. It can be the bed is near a window that has a chord from the curtains."
Safe sleep is as simple as ABC. Babies sleep safest when they sleep Alone on their Back, in an uncluttered Crib or other safe-sleep surface.
The "Back to Sleep" campaign was successful, leading to a decline in sleep-related infant deaths in the 90s, but Stratton says the decline has plateaued.
"When the baby is on their stomach, there is a flap in the esophagus that is open. So, if the baby were to vomit, it can aspirate and cause some issues. If the baby is flipped over on their back, that flap in the esophagus is closed off. So if the baby were to vomit, they could not aspirate that back into the lungs."
Stratton is hoping education and research will change the way families think. She says, "It needs to start with those grandmothers taking care of those grandchildren. It's a generational thing, and they are doing it the way they did years ago."
The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends babies sleep in a crib or bassinet in the parents' bedroom for at least the first six months and up to age one. The only thing that should be in the baby bed is the baby. Babies who sleep with their parents are three times more likely to die.
"There is no one that is immune to sleep-related deaths," Stratton cautions
Katy Bridges had heard the warnings about bumper pads, but never thought it could happen to them.
It is illegal in some states to sell bumper pads, however, that is not the case in Alabama.
'That's the scary part. I think everyone has heard, 'don't use bumper pads!' But, they are cute, and it's part of your nursery and it's what people do. But, they are dangerous. It really does happen. It's not worth the risk," Bridges says.
Again, no stuffed animals, no blankets and no bumper pads in the baby's bed. Also, you should not be able to fit a soda can between the slats. If you can, that means the baby's head could get stuck in it.
You can find more information about safe sleep at http://alabamahealthywomen.com/perinatal/Default.asp?id=5909.