Petitions, Legislation, and Talking Points


Talking Points:  Short version

  • Approximately 4,000 babies die each year suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping.
  • Most of these deaths used to be called SIDS, which could not be “prevented.”
  • Since the advent of better death scene investigations and child death review we now realize that a vast number of these deaths – at least half – are actually deaths due to suffocation, strangulation, or overlay while sleeping in an unsafe sleep environment.
  • An unsafe sleep environment is sleeping with parents, siblings, or others in an adult bed, on a couch, or on a chair;  sleeping in a crib filled with soft objects such as blankets, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, etc.; breathing in cigarette smoke; or sleeping in any other position except wholly on the back.
  • The most important  point? A vast number – probably a vast majority – of these deaths are  completely preventable with education and the intervention of a crib, if  necessary.

Talking Points:  Long version

  • Across this country there is an epidemic of infants dying in unsafe sleep environments.  Approximately 4,000 babies die each year suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping.
  • The rate of infants dying of ASSB – Accidental Suffocation or Strangulation in Bed – has quadrupled since the 1980s.*
  • Most of these deaths used to be called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which could not be “prevented.”
  • Since the advent of better death scene investigations and child death review we now realize that a vast number of these deaths – at least half – are actually deaths due to suffocation, strangulation, or overlay while sleeping in an unsafe sleep environment.
  • An unsafe sleep environment is:
    • bed-sharing (sleeping with parents, siblings, or others in an adult bed.  It is often confused with the term co-sleeping)
    • sleeping with an infant on a couch, chair, or waterbed
    • infants sleeping in a crib filled with soft objects such as blankets, pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, etc.
    • infants sleeping in a crib that has not been properly assembled, has broken components, or in cribs that have been recalled due to safety issues (e.g., drop-side cribs)
    • infants being put to sleep for a nap or overnight in a device not designed for safe infant sleep, including car seats and swings
    • infants sleeping in any other position except wholly on the back
  • Babies should only sleep in safe cribs, bassinets or play yards.
  • Breastfeeding is best for babies and should be encouraged.  Breastfeeding can be done successfully without bringing the baby into bed to sleep with the mother.
  • Many parents are receiving no education, or mixed messages, about infant safe sleep.
  • Many parents are told that bed-sharing is safe, if done safely, and are encouraged to sleep with their infants to promote breastfeeding and bonding.  Yet we know that bed-sharing is a risk factor for both accidental suffocation and SIDS, and we believe that it cannot be done safely.
  • There have been more than 25 studies done since 2000 that show that bed-sharing, especially with very young infants (under 20 weeks), is an increased risk for suffocation, entrapment, and SIDS.  (http://cribsforkids.org/research/)  During that same period, there have been no studies to show that bed-sharing can be done safely.
  • “Room-sharing” is described as baby sleeping in a close, but separate sleeping surface.
  • The term “co-sleeping” is used inconsistently in research and in the media.
    • “Co-sleeping” is used sometimes to describe an infant sharing a bed with another person; however, it is best described as ‘bedsharing’.  Some believe can be done safely.
    • “Co-sleeping” is also used to describe an infant sharing any sleep surface with another person, including a couch or chair, etc.  Sleeping with an infant on a couch or chair in an unsafe sleep environment.
    • Research that shows that “co-sleeping” decreases the risk of SIDS refers to infants sleeping close to parents (in the same room), but not on the same sleep surface (in a bed).
    • We prefer the use of the terms “bed-sharing” and “room-sharing” to distinguish between those two sleeping arrangements.
  • Although individual pediatricians may provide varying advice, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that parents and infants sleep in close, but separate beds.
  • Bed-sharing is many times portrayed as safe in the media – on TV shows, talk shows, news articles, websites, etc.
  • Pictures of babies asleep on their stomachs and in unsafe sleep environments are everywhere in the public domain, including on products and websites that promote infant safety.
  • The most important point?  A vast number – probably a vast majority – of these sudden unexpected deaths are completely preventable with education about the safest place for babies to sleep, and the intervention of a crib, if necessary.

* Carrie K. Shapiro-Mendoza, PhD, MPHa, Melissa Kimball, MPHa, Kay M. Tomashek, MD, MPHa, Robert N. Anderson, PhDb, Sarah Blanding, MPHa Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia; National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Maryland.  US Infant Mortality Trends Attributable to Accidental Suffocation and Strangulation in Bed From 1984 Through 2004: Are Rates Increasing? Pediatrics Vol. 123 No. 2 February 1, 2009 pp. 533 -539 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-3746)

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