As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, boxed chocolates and red roses remind Louisianians to tell their sweethearts how much they are appreciated. And as many families know, Valentine’s Day is a time for parents and other caregivers to show adoration for their little ones too. That’s why the Louisiana Department of Health is asking residents to show extra care for our infants this month and throughout the year to help protect them from harm – particularly accidental suffocation.

Accidental suffocation is the leading cause of death resulting from unintentional injuries for infants younger than 12 months of age in the United States and Louisiana. Accidental suffocation kills an average of 24 infants each year in Louisiana and more than 800 nationwide. Accidental suffocation occurs when the airway is obstructed, causing a lack of oxygen to the body. This may result from a baby being wedged between two objects, strangulation from cords in sleeping environments, choking or objects restricting breathing.  These types of tragic deaths can be prevented by taking steps to ensure safe sleeping environments for infants.

“Losing just one baby to suffocation while sleeping in a crib or bassinet is one too many,” said LDH Office of Public Health Assistant Secretary Clayton Williams. “And while it may seem harmless to place a soft, new teddy bear or other cuddly toy in a crib, that simple act can have a devastating, unintended consequence, by accidentally depriving a sleeping baby of oxygen.”

Parents and other caregivers can give infants the gift of safe sleep and reduce the risk of suffocation by following the safety tips below: 

  • Place your baby to sleep on his or her back in a safety-approved crib, bassinet or cradle on a firm mattress.  Babies should not sleep on an adult bed, day bed/ twin bed, waterbed, couch, air mattress, futon or on other soft surfaces due to risk of suffocation;
  • Do not place pillows, wedges, positioners or pillow-like toys in cribs because a baby’s movement may cause these items to shift and impair a baby’s ability to breathe;
  • Do not have any loose cords around a baby’s sleeping environment or on sleep clothing due to risk of strangulation;
  • Do not place any loose bedding, comforters or quilts in crib, as these items can impair a baby’s ability to breathe if they cover the face. Use a light blanket if needed, tuck all sides along bottom half of crib, below baby’s arms.

“Infant deaths related to unsafe sleeping environments are easily preventable,” said Dr. Gina Lagarde, DHH’s SIDS medical director. “Our goal is to help parents recognize and understand that simple steps can be taken to reduce infant sleep-related deaths.”  Through caregiver education and implementation of more protective sleep practices all infants can sleep soundly and safely.

The LDH Maternal Child Health Program, which supports the Louisiana SIDS Risk Reduction and Safe Sleep Program and Partners for Healthy Babies, works to assure that pregnant women, women of childbearing age, infants, children and youth in Louisiana have access to high-quality primary and preventive health care services.  For more information, please visit Web site

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit