NIH launches new infant safe sleep campaign

The National Institutes of Health is expanding its safe infant sleep outreach campaign to include ways to reduce not only sudden infant death syndrome but all causes of infant death.

The “Back to Sleep” campaign was launched in 1994 to encourage parents to put babies to sleep on their back to reduce the risk of SIDS, or unexplained death of an infant under a year old.

The campaign has been adopted widely, with Maryland and Baltimore City aggressively educating parents.

Now, the NIH is calling the campaign "Safe to Sleep." This will include all unexpected deaths, from SIDS as well as those from other causes such as suffocation or entrapment. That’s when a baby gets stuck between a mattress and a wall or when bedding wraps around an infant’s neck.

The campaign will emphasize more safe sleeping practices, such as putting babies to bed alone in a crib without blankets or other soft bedding. It will also emphasize eliminating threats such as overheating and exposure to smoking and a mother’s use of alcohol and drugs. It will push for breast feeding when possible because it’s linked to a reduced risk of SIDS.

For some cities such as Baltimore, these elements have already been included in their local campaigns. Baltimore calls it's program "B'More for Health Babies."

 “In recent years, we’ve learned that many of the risk factors for SIDS are similar to those for other sleep-related causes of infant death,” said Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “Placing infants on their backs to sleep and providing them with a safe sleep environment for every sleep time reduces the risk for SIDS as well as death from other causes, such as suffocation.”

See a fact sheet here.

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