“The first funeral of a baby I ever attended was for the infant boy of a patient whose first son I delivered a couple of years earlier. One day, for some extraordinary reason, the elder son was placed to sleep in the same crib as his baby twin siblings. At some point he rolled over and suffocated one of the twins. He was there at the funeral – in his tiny little suit holding his mother’s hand. It broke my heart. Honestly, I do not remember having ever discussed safe sleep with this patient…I always wonder whether it might have made a difference if I had.”
-Anonymous, Midwife in Baltimore
Safe sleep for infants is an important health issue.
Sleep-related deaths are the second leading cause of infant mortality in Baltimore and the leading cause of death for infants 1 month to 1 year of age. Most of these deaths occur two to four months after birth. Nationally, African-American infants are twice as likely as white infants to suffer a sleep-related death.
What you say and do makes a difference.
Studies indicate that parents who have been counseled by health care professionals about safe sleep are more likely to place infants on their backs for sleep. Similarly, if patients have seen their infant placed to sleep on his or her stomach by a health care provider, they are more likely to adopt this dangerous practice at home.
In Baltimore City, most infants who die in their sleep are found in unsafe sleep environments. These environments include bed sharing with an adult or sibling, sleeping on an adult bed, a couch, or other unsafe surface, and sleeping on the stomach.
Safe sleep campaigns have been associated with a decrease in SIDS deaths in countries that have implemented coordinated, far-reaching campaigns. Nationally, the Back-to-Sleep campaigns in the U.S. are credited with a 42% reduction in SIDS between 1992 and 1998.
In Baltimore, the number of sleep-related deaths has dropped and remained at lower levels since the 2010 launch of the SLEEP SAFE campaign, a coordinated effort of mass media advertising, community mobilization, and provider counseling.