Health officials encourage safe infant sleeping habits

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - We've heard of many families struggling to find a place to live since Hurricane Michael. In some cases, that's forced parents to share beds with their children in tight quarters. Our area has seen five infant deaths since the storm, all attributed to families not being able to put their babies in safe sleeping environments.

October is SIDS Awareness Month, drawing attention to sudden infant death syndrome. (WJHG/WECP)

Families have been forced to double up in bedrooms and sleep wherever they can find shelter.

"Now they're at grandma's house with six other siblings, or you know, cousins, aunts, and uncles. And there's no housing available just yet, so there's no end near," Healthy Start Executive Director Sharon Owens said.

Owens said this has created an alarming problem for our smallest residents. She says five infants have died since the storm due to unsafe sleeping environments, and she wants to get the word out that securing your baby is as easy as ABC.

"Alone, on your back, and in a crib," Owens said.

October is SIDS Awareness Month, drawing attention to sudden infant death syndrome, usually caused by babies suffocating while sleeping.

Owens said the ugliest crib is the safest crib. This means making sure nothing else is in the crib with the baby, like pillows and comforters.

Babies who sleep on their sides or stomachs have an increased risk of suffocation. Experts are trying to spread the word.

At the Florida Department of Health, you'll see a display teaching parents how to safely put babies to sleep.

"We got the baby and the sleep sack in the crib and also the bed showing no pillows, no blankets, no stuffed toys; nothing in the bed but baby and the sleep sack," Florida Department of Health-Bay County Public Information Officer Heather Kretzer said.

Safe sleeping may not be top of mind when families are recovering from a disaster but making space for babies to sleep alone, on their backs, and in a crib can save local families from more heartache.

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