DPH Calls on Georgia Hospitals to Reduce Infant Sleep-Related Deaths

February 29, 2016

Health leaders throughout Georgia are collaborating to introduce a new hospital program designed to reduce infant sleep-related deaths and raise awareness about safe sleeping environments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 4,000 infants die suddenly and unexpectedly each year in the United States. As of 2014, in Georgia, three infants died each week due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes.

Educating parents and caregivers on proper sleeping practices begins even before a baby’s birth and is especially important after an infant’s birth in the hospital. To ensure health providers in Georgia implement and model safe sleep practices, the Georgia Department of Public Health is recruiting birthing hospitals to adopt its new Hospital-Based Safe to Sleep Program.

DPH is joining forces with an array of state agencies and associations for this effort including: the Georgia Children’s Cabinet; the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; the Georgia Hospital Association; and the Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society.

This program provides policy guidance and educational tools on infant health and sleep practices to medical, nursing, breastfeeding, child birth education and nutrition staff members.

“Our Hospital-Based Safe to Sleep Program enables us to address barriers that prevent every baby from enjoying safe sleep and increase the protection of babies from SIDS and other sleep-related deaths,” said Terri Miller, Safe to Sleep coordinator, DPH Injury Prevention Program. “The policy encourages providers to engage in discussions about proper safe infant sleep practices with their staff as well as new parents and caregivers prior to leaving the hospital.” 

By increasing knowledge of these evidence-based practices among the health leaders that support new mothers and babies, DPH aims to reduce the state’s infant mortality rate.

“The policy is designed to address the sleep environment of the baby while he or she is still in the hospital and ensures that the hospital staff is following safe sleep guidelines,” Miller continued. “We believe these efforts will better equip parents with the knowledge they need to safeguard the health of their infant for every sleep – whether sleeping at night or simply taking a nap.”

As part of a national public health effort to combat sleep-related deaths among infants, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents, caregivers and anyone who cares for an infant follow the ABCs of safe sleep:

  • Alone – Babies should sleep alone in their own sleep space, close to but separate from their caregiver. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to share a room with the baby, but avoid sleeping in the same bed with the infant.  
  • Back – Babies should be placed on their back to sleep. Studies show that placing infants on their back for all sleep times, including naps and at night, reduces the risk of SIDS.
  • Crib – Babies should sleep in a crib or bassinet that meets standards set forth by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. The mattress should be firm and covered with a tight-fitting bottom sheet made specifically for the crib. No blankets, quilts, crib bumpers, toys or any objects should be in baby’s sleeping space.

In addition to offering insights on safe infant sleep, the program also offers recommendations on prenatal health behaviors that can reduce instances of SIDS, such as stopping alcohol use during pregnancy, infant vaccinations and a crib-audit checklist that evaluates the safety of an infant’s sleeping area.

For more information regarding DPH’s Safe to Sleep program or ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, visit www.dph.georgia.gov/safetosleep

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