LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - They're a parent's most priceless treasure and their safety is of utmost importance.
"We really need to emphasize you don't want to sleep with your baby even in a recliners," said Laura Duhon, a neonatal nurse practitioner at the Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for Women. "Never leave a baby sleeping on a sofa; they've been caught on sofa cushions. Just, lots of tragic things that we hear about in the hospital that can be avoided so; we just want to make sure that everyone knows."
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals says Louisiana has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country – nearly twice the national average.
One of the biggest reasons tragic incidents like this happen is due to common mistakes made at home. The Lake Charles Memorial Hospital for Women helps educate new mothers on safety tips to avoid risks of accidental deaths.
"So many times, just the weight of your arm on that baby or the baby getting its face up against you, the baby, a newborn baby and any babies that are less than a year old are just not strong enough to get away from you and so the baby accidentally gets smothered," said Duhon.
Director of the Bureau of Family Health Amy Zapata says the Lake Charles area leads the state in accidental infant deaths.
"We have 29 infants who have died unexpectedly in the last 3 years in the Lake Charles area," said Zapata. "Most of those being in the Calcasieu Parish, specifically."
Both the Department of Health and Hospitals and local hospitals recommend all parents to ensure infants to sleep alone and on their backs and never share a bed and avoid using unnecessary linens in cribs and other products such as bumpers or loose pacifiers.
"Never put a baby in bed with you," said Duhon. "If you feel like you're falling asleep, put the baby in his safe zone and put him in his crib. You don't have to be a hero and do everything for your baby. Get some help so that you're not so exhausted that a tragedy like this happens."
The most recent accidental infant death in the Lake Charles involved a 6-month-old boy. The Calcasieu Sheriff's Office says the infant suffocated between a mattress and a wall on Tuesday in a home on Sundale Dr.