State campaign targets sudden infant deaths

BOSTON (AP) – Massachusetts officials are stepping up efforts to reduce sudden infant death syndrome.
Throughout October, a public awareness campaign will focus on educating parents and caregivers about how to make sure infants are sleeping in a safe manner.
The campaign will include the new web page and public service posters on MBTA trains.
All the state’s maternity hospitals also plan to give new parents a copy of the book “Sleep Baby, Safe and Snug” during the month.
Officials say sudden infant death syndrome affects about 30 to 50 families each year in Massachusetts.
“Unsafe sleeping among newborns is a public health issue here in Massachusetts and across the country,” said Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz. “The good news is that it is often preventable. By providing public education and targeting training and resources, we can give parents, guardians and caregivers the tools they need to reduce the risk and promote positive brain activity that comes with safe sleep.”
This summer, HHS Assistant Secretary for Children, Youth and Families Kathleen Betts, convened an interagency Task Force on Infant Safe Sleep to take direct action to educate the public, parents and caregivers about infant safe sleep practices and find ways to collaborate across state agencies, and with medical associations and hospitals, to reduce the risks associated with unsafe infant safe sleeping practices.
The task force is comprised of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Public Health, the Office of the Child Advocate, the Department of Early Education and Care and the Department of Housing and Community Development.
“This heartbreaking and sometimes preventable condition can happen in any family regardless of income, education or community,” said Betts. “Working together, through this task force and with public and private partners, we can give all who come into contact with infants a consistent message about simple, safe sleeping practices, and help families create a safe sleeping environment.”
“It’s not frequent but there are certain risk factors,” said Dr. Rebecca Rosenstein of Mercy Medical Center.
Rosenstein, who spent 12 years at Bay State Hospital and the Riverbend Medical Group before arriving at Mercy, said she has seen numerous instances of sudden infant deaths over the years and believes there are simple ways to increase your baby’s safety.
“Having babies sleep on their back is far and away the safest thing you can do. There’s always a grandmother in your family who will say ‘put the baby on their stomach – they will sleep better’, but back is best,” she said. “On their side is a second choice, but not an alternative.”
“You really want stress that babies sleep in a safe environment with an infant safe mattress, not in the parents’ bed,” added Rosenstein. “We love our soft mattresses, but it’s not appropriate for babies.”
That beautiful comforter your aunt made you when Junior was born? Rosenstein says hang it on the wall and keep thick pillows and stuffed animals away from them while they sleep, as well.
“You don’t want things that can cover their mouth and nose and make it hard to breathe,” she said. “Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of SUID, so if you’ve been thinking about a reason to quit, having a baby on the way is a great reason.”
Rosenstein added that using a pacifier may be beneficial in preventing sudden infant deaths and suggested sleeping in the same room as your child.
“Sleeping in the same room – not in the same bed, but in a bassinet for the first couple of months – can greatly decrease the risk,” she said. “We don’t always know why it happens. Some people think it’s undiagnosed cardiac disease but its called ‘Sudden Infant Death.’ If we knew what it was, we’d call it something else, but there are definitely things you can control to make your baby’s sleep environment safer.”

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