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Baltimore reports sleep-related infant deaths continue to tick down

Sleep-related infant deaths continues downward trend in Baltimore.

The Baltimore City Health Department reported Wednesday that the number of sleep-related infant deaths continues to tick down since it launched a campaign in 2010 to educate mothers about the proper ways to put babies to bed.

There were 13 deaths in 2014, one better than the previous low in 2012 and about half the number before the Safe Sleep effort began as part of the larger B'more for Healthy Babies initiative. There were 17 deaths in 2013, the department reported.

Sleep-related deaths are the second leading cause of infant mortality in Baltimore, behind complications from pre-term birth and low birth weight.

Sleep-related deaths include infants who were smothered accidentally, and incidents of sudden infant death syndrome or other unexplained deaths.

“Education is the key to changing behavior to prevent these tragic deaths,” said Dr. Leana Wen, city health commissioner, in a statement. “That means everyone needs to know the ABCs of Safe Sleep -- that babies should be put to sleep alone, on their backs and in cribs, without exposure to secondhand smoke. No exceptions.”

Most of the 102 babies since 2009 who died in their sleep were in an unsafe sleep environment, such as in an adult bed or sofa, on soft bedding, on their stomach or with heavy blankets or pillows, health officials said.

As part of the imitative, families are shown a video in the hospital after their babies are born. The health department also has trained more than 4,000 health and social service providers, handed out safe cribs to low-income families and sent community health workers door-to-door.

“At Family League, we work every day to ensure that we help provide an environment in which children can thrive from birth through career, and this campaign is another step in making this vision become a greater reality,” said Jonathon Rondeau, president and CEO of Family League of Baltimore, a partner on the campaign.

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