NIH expands safe infant sleep outreach effort

September 13, 2012

The U.S. national campaign to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome has entered a new phase and will now encompass all sleep-related, sudden unexpected infant deaths, officials of the National Institutes of Health announced today.

The campaign, which has been known as the Back to Sleep Campaign, has been renamed the Safe to Sleep Campaign.

The NIH-led Back to Sleep Campaign began in 1994, to educate parents, caregivers, and about ways to reduce the risk of (SIDS). The campaign name was derived from the recommendation to place healthy infants on their backs to sleep, a practice proven to reduce SIDS risk. SIDS is the sudden death of an infant under 1 year of age that cannot be explained, even after a complete death scene investigation, autopsy, and review of the infant's . Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) includes all unexpected infant deaths: those due to SIDS, and as well as those from other causes.

Many SUID cases are due to such causes as accidental suffocation and entrapment, such as when an infant gets trapped between a mattress and a wall, or when bedding material presses on or wraps around an infant's neck. In addition to stressing the placement of infants on their backs for all sleep times, the Safe to Sleep Campaign emphasizes other ways to provide a safe sleep environment for infants. This includes placing infants to sleep in their own safe sleep environment and not on an adult bed, without any soft bedding such as blankets or quilts. Safe to Sleep also emphasizes infants when possible, which has been associated with reduced SIDS risk, and eliminating such risks to as overheating, exposure to , and a mother's use of alcohol and .

"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 Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH institute which sponsors Safe to Sleep. "Placing 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."

A new one-page fact sheet, "What does a safe sleep environment look like," shows how to provide a safe sleep environment, and lists ways that parents and caregivers can reduce the risk for SIDS. The fact sheet is available at nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs_details.cfm?from=&pubs_id=5795.

The NICHD's new brochure, Safe Sleep for Your Baby, provides more detailed information on ways that parents and caregivers can reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. The Safe Sleep for Your Baby brochure, as well as the one-page fact sheet, are available for order at 1-800-505-CRIB (2742) or at www.nichd.nih.gov/SIDS.

In the next month, new Safe to Sleep materials will be available in Spanish. Additional materials will be available for the African-American and American Indian/Alaska Native communities, which have had higher SIDS rates. Also, a Safe Sleep for Your Baby DVD will be available for order and the new Safe to Sleep campaign website will be launched in October.

Since the 1970s, the NICHD has conducted and supported research to understand SIDS and identify ways to reduce its occurrence. The original Back to Sleep Campaign was based on the American Academy of Pediatrics'(AAP) original recommendation for back sleeping. The new Safe to Sleep Campaign seeks to inform parents and caregivers of the AAP's revised recommendations for reducing SIDS as well as other -related causes of .

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