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What if a Child Dies at a Day Care Center During Sleep Time While Being Swaddled?

 By David Wolf, AttorneyPublished by Child Injury Lawyer Blog

Building Block - M - Day Care Center

In day care centers located in South Carolina and throughout the Nation, there is a common danger that many parents and day care center providers do not understand and even ignore.  The common danger to children is present during nap time or sleep time.  There is a risk of suffocation, asphyxiation, and SIDS related injuries and deaths during sleep time or nap time.   Many child care providers and day care center providers swaddle newborns and infants in day care centers. Swaddling is the practice of wrapping an infant in blankets snuggly so that movement is limited.
Pediatric experts have mixed opinions as to the safety of swaddling in the home and day care center.  Many experts warn against the use of swaddling that there is a potential increased risk of suffocation, asphyxiation, and SIDS related injuries that may be associated with swaddling according to some reports and studies.  Some pediatricians and child care providers are proponents of the practice because it tends to calm infants and allows them to sleep for longer periods of time.  Again, others are against the practice of swaddling due to potential health and safety risks. 
Certainly, the act of swaddling and other similar acts should be be used as a substitute for supervision of children while in a day care center.  Nap time or sleep time is not a good time for day care center and child care center employees to multi-task or to work in other parts of the facility.  A child, who is put down for a nap or for sleep time, is not safe just because the child is placed in a crib or restricted sleeping area.  If an infant rolls over onto a soft item like a blanket, pillow, stuffed animal, or even a soft mattress, the child is a very short time period can suffer serious personal injuries and even die as a result of the deprivation or restriction of oxygen.   It is important for day care centers and child care centers to provide a safe, secure, and well supervised sleeping / napping environment for the children under the care of the center especially those children who are infants. 
A death of a child was recently reported in Belton, South Carolina. It was reported that a 3-month old baby was put in a crib at approximately 11:30 a.m. and then checked on again about 90 minutes later.  See Baby Who Died at Belton South Carolina Day Care Center – No Criminal Charges Will Be Filed. 
News reports stated that criminal charges would not be filed. It should be noted that the pursuit of a civil case or insurance claim is not dependent on the filing or lack of filing of a criminal case for the same conduct on behalf of the child care providers. In most States, the legal standards are dramatically different between a civil case, administrative case, and a criminal case.   In most civil cases, there are four elements required as follows:  1. Duty;  2. Breach of Duty;  3. Causation; and 4. Damages.  For most civil cases involving injury to a child, a parent need not prove intentional conduct or malicious conduct.   The burden is to proof negligence conduct or the failure to provide reasonable child care.  In South Carolina and other States, a child care center should comply with the applicable regulations, its own policies and procedures, and generally accepted practices for child care.  Again as noted above, it is important to have supervision during nap time or sleep time especially for infants who are known to roll over and be at risk for injuries associated with suffocation, asphyxiation, and SIDS incidents. 
David A. Wolf is a child injury attorney and advocate for the safety of children. He has the author of several books including the book titled The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know.  You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury