A Washington mother is grieving the death of her 7-month-old son, Sloan, after he was found unresponsive in his crib on July 3.
Jordan DeRosier put her baby boy to bed in his crib with a blanket made by his great-great grandmother and another grey blanket he’d had since birth on the night of July 2. According to DeRosier, Sloan somehow pulled the blanket through his crib rails and got himself stuck in it. She found him in the morning “ice cold” with purple skin and blue lips.
“I have a lot of guilt,” DeRosier, 30, tells PEOPLE. “What could I have done better? Could I have saved him? I will never be able to shake the feeling that there was something more I could have done to prevent his death.”
DeRosier, who lives with her 32-year-old husband, Justin, and their 3-year-old son, Rowan, in Puyallup, Washington, wants other mom’s to learn from her son’s tragic death.
“That’s really the only thing giving us comfort right now,” she says. “We’ve gotten thousands of messages from parents saying that after reading about our story, they took blankets out of cribs.”
Sloan’s death gained attention on social media after DeRosier posted a heart-wrenching photo and Facebook post describing the moment she discovered her son on his stomach. Initially, she hadn’t gone into detail about the circumstances of how her son died, but after she started receiving messages from concerned parents, she decided to explain what happened to inform others.
“I was the one who found Sloan. I went in to get him from his crib at 9:48am, opened the door and noticed he was on his stomach with his beloved blankie around only his head. I yanked it off, touched his back and felt that he was ice cold. I flipped him over and a blood curdling scream for Justin escaped me. His face and chest were completely purple on one side. His lips blue. His eyes closed. Justin came running in and I handed Sloan over to him. I remember the animalistic scream of ‘No!’ that came out of Justin over and over. I remember him laying Sloan on the kitchen counter, trying to perform CPR while on the phone with 911. I was still screaming,” she posted on Facebook.
“I tried to hold Sloan’s lifeless hand but his body was too stiff at that point and I couldn’t open up his fingers. Then it was time. We kissed him, covering him in tears, we gasped for air as they took him out of my reluctant arms. They unwrapped him and handed me his name blanket back. The examiner started unfolding an infant sized body bag,” she continued.
DeRosier tells PEOPLE it’s a horrifying moment she’ll never forget.
“Every time I close my eyes I see it,” she says. “I am trying not to be alone at all because I relive it and picture what happened.
“It’s still so fresh that every time I close my eyes it’s all I can see — him laying there. All I can see in my head is how I found him and those images have replaced the good ones, but I hope I’m able to bring to the forefront the happy memories of him when he was alive.”
The family is now staying with DeRosier’s parents as they grieve the loss of Sloan, who was “the happiest baby in the world,” she says.
“He was a dream, always smiling,” says DeRosier, who owns a children’s apparel line called Hello Cedar. “He was really advanced too, he was really close to walking and could stand on his own, he had been crawling for about a month and could pull himself up from standing to sitting. At his age, he was already doing things a 1-year-old could do and he was about the size of a 1-year-old too.”
His advanced movements and size led his mother to believe he would be safe with a blanket in the crib.
“It’s a grey area, we never really had a discussion about it,” says DeRosier. “I think part of the awareness we’re trying to spread is that it can happen at any age.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics announced last year that approximately 3,500 infants “die annually in the United States from sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); ill-defined deaths; and accidental suffocation and strangulation.”
The AAP recommends doing the following to create a safe sleeping environment for babies:
- Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.
- Avoid use of soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.
- Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.
- Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.
DeRosier says her husband, who works in a distribution warehouse for Kroger, is “having an especially difficult time” dealing with the loss.
“He’s just very quiet, it has hit him so hard,” says DeRosier.
According to Patch.com, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department confirmed DeRosier’s account of Sloan’s death. The department said it is still conducting an investigation, but it “appears to be an accidental death.”
The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s tells PEOPLE Sloan’s cause of death is still being determined and won’t be released for weeks.
The parents aren’t planning a memorial or funeral service for Sloan because it’s “just too painful,” DeRosier says.
“Instead, we will have a day with the entire family to get together and remember,” she says. “But no big event.
“We have no doubt Sloan’s legacy will live on through his light, he really was a source of happiness for everyone.”
DeRosier says her family plans to go to grief and trauma counseling.
“Rowan understands that his brother is dead but doesn’t understand where he is,” she says. “He was there when Sloan was found and saw everything so we want him to be able to cope with this accordingly, we need to cope together as a family.
“But it really helps to know that even though our baby is gone, everyone is loving him and sharing his story and he could be helping keep other babies safe.”