A Couple Is Pushing for Sleep Safety Education After Their Baby Suffocated While Attending Day Care

A Minnesota couple and a local medical center share the common mission of spreading awareness about the sleep-related deaths of babies

According to Fox 9, the Hennepin County Medical Center reports that there has been a recent increase in the deaths of infants due to suffocation while sleeping.

Fox 9 reports Girlie Lincoln and her husband, Cory Lincoln, continue to mourn the loss of their daughter after she suffocated while at day care last year.

Lincoln gave birth to a healthy Phoenix Jade Lincoln on November 6, 2017. Her birth was a miracle following the couple’s recent miscarriage and infertility issues.

At the end of Lincoln’s maternity leave, she and her husband hired Janelle Dickinson to care for Phoenix during the day. One of Lincoln’s co-workers referred Dickinson to her, and she seemed like a good fit.

Lincoln said:

“We had a stomach feeling. We were just like, we like her. Her home seems clean from where we walked in the living room and I trust my co-worker as well.”

Dickinson babysat her own grandchildren among others in her home located in Coon Rapids.

According to Fox 9, the first few weeks Dickinson cared for Phoenix, everything went well. However, one day, the Lincolns got a phone call no parent wants to receive. They were told that their baby girl hadn’t woken from her nap and wasn’t breathing.

The new parents hurried to the hospital in hopes that their little girl would recover. However, baby Phoenix never regained consciousness and was taken off life support the next day.

Lincoln said:

“I didn’t want it to be some kind of countdown to when my kid was gonna die. I was just like, stop, don’t do that. Let me hold her.”

Later, an Anoka County Social Services and Behavioral Health investigation reported that Dickinson was negligent in how she put Phoenix down to sleep.

Fox 9 reports that “the heavily redacted county and police investigative reports” tell how it happened. They state that Dickinson told officers she had placed Phoenix on her tummy, with two full-sized pillows, and placed a blanket up to her shoulders.

She explained that she “always lays babies on their stomach” because they are more “content.” Also, Dickinson admitted to not completing any relevant training courses.

Further, despite caring for 13 children at the time, she hadn’t been licensed for day care since 1996. Eleven of those children were under the age of 3.

Upon discovering this news, Phoenix’s parents went from sad to outraged.

When Fox 9 asked Lincoln if she felt Dickinson killed her baby, she said:

“I do believe that.”

After a grand jury indicted Dickinson on two counts of second-degree manslaughter, she pleaded guilty to one of those charges involving negligence and child endangerment.

Earlier this year, Hennepin Healthcare was certified as the first Minnesota hospital to earn a “Safe Sleep Champion” title. The hospital emphasizes “prenatal and post-birth education and prevention to make sure all babies reach their first birthdays,” Fox 9 reports.

Jenette Flynn, a pediatric unit clinical care supervisor at HCMC, says that infants “should always sleep on back, never their side and never their tummy.”

Further, Flynn said :

“The only thing that should be in the crib or the pack-n-play or the bassinet is a baby.”

This means that the baby should be swaddled in a blanket and the area should be empty of all things. This includes stuffed animals, spare diapers, and pillows, which “all are a risk for baby to suffocate.”

Further, Flynn warns about the lack of ability babies have to help themselves out of these suffocating situations.

She explained:

“They don’t know they need to turn their head to be able to breathe. They don’t have the ability to know that. And they may also not have the muscle strength to actually make a movement. So they can get themselves into a situation, but can’t get out of.”

In reference to this type of information, Lincoln said:

“It frustrates me because I thought, running a daycare, you would know these things. You’re an established daycare. I’m the new parent. I have to research these things because I’m the new parent.”

Fox 9 reports that prosecutors and the Lincolns requested for Dickinson to spend a year in jail as part of a plea agreement to avoid trial. However, a judge sentenced Dickinson to six months on house arrest and 10 years probation.

In regards to the sentencing, Lincoln said:

“I don’t get to see her cry anymore, I don’t get holidays with her. I don’t get to spend birthdays with her, graduations, weddings, whatever. And she gets to stay home and have her grandkids sleep over, spend holidays with her family and have all the conveniences of home. How is that fair? It’s not.”

Although the Lincolns are disappointed with the sentencing, they continue to push for awareness and education on sleep safety.

In support of their effort, the judge did order Dickinson to speak with caregivers going through the licensing process about her experience and the significance of safe-sleep practices. Further, she has been prohibited from providing child care in the future.