TULSA - The numbers are enough to frighten any parent. Oklahoma ranks second in the nation for sleep-related baby deaths.
There are 82 sleep-related deaths involving Oklahoma infants each year, 14 in Tulsa alone.
"Once a month a baby dies that suffocated, smothered by either a person rolling over on them, a blanket or pillow on their face or their face buried on a pillow," said Dr. Lisa Owens, medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Hillcrest Medical Center's Peggy B. Helmerich Women's Center.
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To save lives, Hillcrest Medical Center teamed up with the Tulsa County Health Department for September's National Safe Sleep Awareness Month. Physicians joined forces with maternal and child health experts to demonstrate to future and new parents what constitutes a safe sleep environment for infants.
Experts advise parents to remove everything -- all toys, pillows, blankets and bumper pads -- from the playpen or crib except a tight-fitting sheet.
"We want to make sure to remove everything out of the way of the baby. The only things that should be in the playpen or the crib is the fitted sheet," said Marnie Jackson, director of the Maternal and Child Health Initiative with the Tulsa Health Department.
She advises parents to put the baby to bed on their back. Alone.
"Lots of moms are tired, they fall asleep in bed with their babies but people have to know that is not safe and it puts your baby at risk," Owens added. "The actual SIDS rate is very low. Infants dying in unsafe sleep environments is much higher -- much, much higher and and that's the thing we can prevent."
To learn more about safe sleep for babies, visit the Helmerich Women's Center lobby from 9 a.m.-noon.
Parents and caregivers can also find more information about infant safety at www.tulsahealth.org .
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