Health

Infant sleep deaths investigated in Ontario

Unsafe sleeping environments were found in about a third of infant deaths studied in Ontario, according to a new report.

Coroners collecting more information to try to target prevention strategies

Unsafe sleeping environments were found in about a third of infant deaths studied in Ontario, according to a new report.

Ontario's Office of the Chief Coroner studied 131 infant deaths last year. Of these, 37 per cent were found in unsafe sleeping environments, the Pediatric Death Review Committee and Deaths Under Five Committee said in their annual report Monday.

Babies should be placed to sleep on their back in a crib with only a light blanket, doctors say. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The committees are trying to find ways to lower infant death rates.

"Potential unsafe sleep circumstances extend over a continuum from the safe environment of the infant sleeping on their back in an uncluttered crib that conforms to regulation, to situations clearly identified as dangerous and likely directly contributing to the death," the report's authors wrote.

The children in the report died with no findings on autopsy but were in an unsafe sleep environment, said Dirk Huyer, chair of the committees and the regional coroner for Guelph, Ont.

Since Jan. 1, the province has been collecting more data to look for any risk factors associated with infant deaths.

The additional information includes how the baby was sleeping and positioned, the temperature of the room and whether they were sleeping with a parent or adult, Huyer said.

They also hope to collect details about the pregnancy and social characteristics of the families.

"Hopefully that will allow us to provide more targeted prevention strategies in the area of sudden infant deaths in sleep environments," he said.

Other topics in the report include:

The committees assist the chief coroner's office to investigate and review deaths of children, as well as make recommendations to help prevent deaths

With files from The Canadian Press

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