In 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, unsafe sleep environments factored in 75 of 152 deaths OCFS reviewed for infants under the age of one year. The most common incidents of sleep-related fatalities occur in adult beds, couches and in a crib.
“It is critical that parents, grandparents and other caregivers practice the ABCs of safe sleep,” said acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “Babies are safest when they sleep alone, on their backs in a crib. Cribs should have a fitted sheet and should never have blankets, toys, bumpers or pillows in them.”
For the OCFS study, hospital maternity ward staff will give new parents information on safe sleep environments. Participating hospitals will ask the parents to sign a consent form allowing researchers to survey them one month after they are discharged. OCFS will follow up with parents who have given consent after the baby goes home to find out if they are following safe sleep practices at home. Parents will receive a safe sleep kit and information even if they decline to participate in the survey.
OCFS has distributed 2,000 sleep kits to the participating hospitals. They include a tote bag, a door hanger with safe sleep information, written information on safe sleep, a book on safe sleep, a safe sleep DVD and a Halo Infant Sleep Sack, which is recommended instead of putting an infant to bed with a blanket, which can suffocate the baby.
“Most infant deaths are preventable,” said OCFS Deputy Commissioner for Child Welfare Laura Velez. “Sadly, parents don’t always practice safe sleep with their babies and, as a result, suffer the worst tragedy a parent can experience. We hope this study will give us information on what we can do to spread the safe sleep message most effectively.”
The hospitals participating in the study are: Jones Memorial Hospital in Allegany County, Olean General Hospital in Cattaraugus County, WCA Hospital in Chautauqua County and Niagara County Medical Center.