Study: Unsafe Sleeping Environments Kill 150 Michigan Babies Every Year

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PARCHMENT, Mich. — A five month old baby girl is dead after being found unresponsive at an apartment in Kalamazoo County this weekend.

Crews tried to revive Naima Atkinson, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.  Police say it appears the baby died because of an unsafe sleeping environment.

Now, FOX 17 is taking a closer look at the startling number of babies that die every year due to unsafe sleep practices.

One hundred and fifty babies die every year from an unsafe sleeping environment, which could include parents and siblings or stuffed animals and blankets in a bed.

These deaths are 100 percent preventable.

Shareece Lee and Patrick Simpson are speaking out and sharing their story of loss in hopes that no other parents have to experience their pain.

They lost their daughter, Lailah, when she was just shy of three months old.

“They said that she died from suffocation from positional asphyxia,” Simpson said.

The health department says in 2012 in Kent County alone, 17 percent of all infant deaths were caused by unsafe sleeping environments.

According to Barb Hawkins Palmer from Healthy Kent 2020 this includes “being in a place where there’s pillows, comforters, blankets that maybe would cover the babies face.”

Another big risk is co-sleeping, or bringing your baby into bed or on the couch with you.

“Often times they bring their baby into their bed because the baby is crying or fussing, and they think this is a good way of bonding and everything will be okay,” Palmer said.

But, she also warns it’s a habit new parents should never get into.  Babies should be placed on their backs in a crib alone with a tight-fitting sheet and nothing else, Palmer says.

This is sometimes hard for parents when they see decorated nurseries in magazines with bumper pads, pillows, blankets and stuffed animals.  But, Palmer warns all are risks to babies.

It’s a lesson Lee says she knew. “They knew that I was a nurse. I understood what safe sleep was, but I always felt like, ‘I’m a mother, I know if my baby`s in distress. I know, I can hear them tossing and turning, I thought I would wake up.’  I never thought it would happen to me, ever.”

Lee and Simpson say most parents don’t think it could happen to them, and that’s why they hope to be a “wake-up call” for other parents.

You can find information on ‘Safe Sleep’ from the Department of Human Resources:,4562,7-124-5453_7124_57836—,00.html

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