This story was updated 3/9 with a response from the DCF spokesman.
State-mandated changes in safe sleep practices for infants in licensed Florida day care centers are irking Jacksonville caregivers and parents alike.
The new rules issued by the Florida Department of Children and Families are based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to reduce the risk of SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Approximately 3,500 infants die annually in the U.S. from sleep-related deaths, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Child care providers are also now required to attend safe-sleep training as part of their licensing, according to a representative for DCF's training division.
In an email, DCF spokesman David Frady told WJCT News, “DCF’s first priority is the health, safety, and security of all children in Florida, and we will continue to update our rules to reflect widely accepted best practices to ensure the safety of children in licensed child care centers.”
Among the new rules are that babies in cribs are no longer allowed to sleep with blankets or other soft comfort items.
Nancy Dreicer, CEO of Jacksonville’s Chappell Schools chain, said, “Our parents are concerned, and I’ve heard from many of them because, as you know, if you have an infant and they have a blankie, they want their blankie.”
Dreicer said a particularly difficult new rule is that pacifiers attached to an infant by a pacifier clip with a cord are now forbidden. Pacifier clips used to be among the school’s required items for parents of infants to provide when sending children to daycare at the school’s eight centers.
“I think the odds of somebody getting sick from a pacifier are probably higher than somebody choking with those little cords,” Dreicer said, adding that staff will be cleaning any pacifiers that do drop on the floor.
Dreicer sent a letter to parents, urging them to write letters to newspaper editors and to contact the governor’s office to oppose the changes.
However, Frady with DCF said public workshops and hearings were held to allow providers and parents to provide feedback on proposed changes.
“However, no concerns or objections to these rule changes were voiced to DCF at any of the public meetings,” he said.
If parents have concerns, he said, they may contact the Child Care Regulation Office at 850-488-4900.
Contact Cyd Hoskinson at email@example.com or 904-358-6351.