Delaware is updating its safe sleep message to new parents.

 

 

A generation ago, doctors and health officials began telling parents not to place babies on their tummies to sleep. The "Back to Sleep" campaign was widespread and credited for declines in the rate of sudden infant death.

"Back to Sleep" is still good advice, but experts say, not enough. "Safe to Sleep" is the new campaign to encourage parents to create a safer sleep environment.

Many parents are unaware that a near-bare crib with tight-fitting sheets is the safest sleep environment for young babies, says Anne Pedrick, executive director of Delaware's Child Death, Near Death and Stillbirth Commission. 

The number of sleep-related infant deaths in the First State was 18 in 2010, down from double that number in 2009. The state commission has been working on the issue for years.

"It's very, very common for people to come up and say, 'I've never heard this, my pediatrician never discussed this with me,'" Pedrick said. " 'What about crib bumpers, do we use 'em? Do we not use 'em?' They're just confused. The answer is 'No.' Crib bumpers are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics."

Pedrick says stuffed toys and fluffy duvets can also pose sleep and rollover hazards.

The federal government recently invited representatives from several states with persistently high rates of sudden unexpected infant death – or SUID. Nurse practitioner and safe sleep specialist Marjorie Hershberger visited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this fall for training.

Sudden infant death syndrome — or SIDS — is the death of an infant younger than 1 that cannot be explained after an autopsy and investigation.

"SIDS is a type of SUID," Hershberger said.

She said researchers don't know the exact causes of SIDS, but there are things parents can do to help reduce the risk. They include:

  • Do not smoke during pregnancy.
  • Forbid smoking around the infant.
  • Breastfeed.
  • Make sure the baby does not become overheated during sleep.

Delaware is surveying hospital labor and delivery departments and pediatrician offices to find out what messages new mothers hear after giving birth and during well-baby visits.

"She might very well not get any information on a safe sleep environment," Hershberger said. "She might just get, 'Put your baby on their back to sleep,' that's just one piece."

The Delaware commission reviewed the18 sudden and unexpected deaths from 2010. Fourteen of those babies  shared a bed with another person, while just one child was sleeping in a crib. Fifteen, or 83 percent of the children were African American.