In 1994 doctors began instructing new mothers to put their babies on their backs to sleep. This “Back to Sleep” Campaign resulted in a drop in sudden infant death rates of 50 percent in the U.S., but sleep-related deaths remained the number one cause of infant deaths after the first month of age. Judy Bannon, Executive Director of Sudden Infant Death Services of PA, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, realized most of the deaths she was seeing were from lower-income areas and were predominantly African-American infants. She was wondering if there was a reason that at-risk families were not responding to the Back to Sleep Campaign, when another trend caught her attention: of these deaths, most were not found in cribs, but on couches or in chairs or adult beds. Was it possible that these babies were dying for the simple and tragic reason that their mothers couldn’t afford cribs and/or had not been educated about infant safe sleeping practices?
The mission became clear: provide cribs to babies whose mothers could not afford them and educate mothers about the dangers of unsafe-sleep environments. In 1998 Judy created Cribs for Kids® to do just that.
How did Cribs for Kids® grow from an idea to a national crib campaign in 10 years? Knowing that the faster Cribs for Kids® grew, the more lives we could save, was great motivation. We developed a Cribs for Kids® Toolkit which includes everything necessary to become a Cribs for Kids® partner and provide this toolkit free of charge to interested organizations. This allows partners to get up and running quickly, while assuring that a consistent safe-sleep message is being spread throughout the country.
Providing cribs fast and at the best price to our partners is another way we help our partners to succeed. To this end, we established the Cribs for Kids® Resource Center at our offices on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. The Resource Center is a warehouse and distribution hub that offers educational materials, portable cribs and other safe-sleep products to partners. The Pack n’ Play® portable crib we sell is specially designed for us by major sponsor Graco Baby Products. We chose this unit because of its safety record, portability, size, and ease of assembly. The sheer volume of Pack n’ Plays® that we purchase allows Graco to offer them us at a drastically discounted rate, which we pass on to our partners.
Pitt-Ohio Express generously delivers our cribs for free to more than 10 states and donated and maintains our fork lift. Negotiated shipping discounts from UPS help us keep our prices low throughout the rest of the country.
Cribs for Kids®, through a network of more than 675 partners nationwide that teach new parents about safe sleep for babies, has distributed more than 325,000 safe cribs to families who, otherwise, could not afford a safe sleeping environments for their babies.
Other resources of Cribs for Kids® include our National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program, Safe Sleep Ambassador Program, Public Service Announcements, billboard campaigns, Managed Care Organization Program, and the passage of PA Act 73 of 2010. Act 73 — mandating that every mother giving birth in Pennsylvania receive infant safe sleep education before leaving the birthing hospital. The language for Act 73 is being adopted by other states through the advocacy of our network of partners.
Together, we are helping every baby sleep safer!