FARMINGTON — There were 24 infants in New Mexico who died in their sleep in 2012.
The New Mexico Department of Health announced the annual figure on Wednesday along with a new program coming to Farmington and Gallup intended to provide low-income families with a opportunity to provide safer sleeping arrangements for their children.
Most infants who died in their sleep in the last four years in New Mexico were sleeping in unsafe situations, such as bed-sharing or sleeping with unsafe materials for infants, like big pillows, according to the health department.
From 2009 to 2012, unsafe sleeping habits were linked to 86 of 91 Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths in the state, according to the department.
Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths include unexplained infant deaths and accidental suffocations or strangulations, heart problems, infections and other causes of death that are explained after an investigation.
Many of the infant deaths were preventable, Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward said in a prepared statement.
"Always place a baby to sleep on its back," she said. "And while it may be tempting, do not place your baby to sleep with you in your bed. Instead, have a crib or bassinet in the same room, so you can be close to your baby."
The health department also announced Wednesday it is launching a new program to help low-income families, particularly those in northwest New Mexico. Health officials said the program will provide cribs to low-income families in McKinley, San Juan, Santa Fe and Rio Arriba counties. The department will provide 55 portable cribs to an infant-care education program in each of those counties.
The crib program is focused on northwest part of the state because Native American and low-income infants have more infant deaths compared to births than the rest of the state's infant death rate, said Eirian Coronado, the director of the New Mexico Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring Systems, which is part of the health department.
Coronado said the health department will provide cribs to a program called First Born that exists in the four counties that will be part of the crib program.
Bonnie Duckett, the manager of the Childbirth Center at San Juan Regional Medical Center, said the hospital directs first-time parents to the First Born staff in Farmington. Their staff works with the families to educate them on safe childhood practices.
Duckett said the crib program hasn't started yet. First Born staff in Farmington and in Gallup weren't sure when the program will begin.Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.