- Executive Office of Health and Human Services
- Department of Public Health
- Office of the Child Advocate
- Massachusetts Department of Children & Families
Media Contact for Massachusetts Launches Infant Safe Sleep Campaign
Elissa Snook, Media Relations Manager
Boston — First Lady Lauren Baker, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, and Massachusetts’ Child Advocate Maria Mossaides joined legislators and advocates today to launch “Safe Asleep”, a public information campaign to promote infant safe sleep. Each year in Massachusetts, approximately 30-40 babies die while sleeping in unsafe positions.
“Creating a safe space where a baby can sleep is important for their health and well-being and unfortunately we have seen far too many families suffer the loss of an infant due to unsafe sleep conditions,” said HHS Secretary Marylou Sudders. “In addition to the public awareness campaign, we are increasing awareness and consistency in practice for all state-funded programs, training, and education for state employees who serve the most vulnerable populations.”
“Public education about sudden infant deaths, and how to prevent them, is critical in lowering the sudden unexpected infant death rate in the Commonwealth,” said Massachusetts’ Child Advocate Maria Mossaides. “The Office of the Child Advocate is currently reviewing agency regulations, policies, staff training programs, and parent training programs to understand what they have in common in terms of safe sleep, and where there are differences that need to be addressed.”
The Department of Public Health recommendations related to sleep position, based on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) include placing an infant:
- Flat on their backs for every sleep (both naps and bedtime) by all caregivers.
- In a safety-approved crib, bassinet, or Pack and Play with a firm mattress and a fitted sheet, and free of toys, blankets, pillows, or bumper pads.
- In the same room, but not in the same bed, as a parent or caregiver (also known as room-sharing), particularly for the first six months after birth, and
- In a sleeping area and home that is smoke-free
“Every child in the Commonwealth deserves to come home from the hospital to a safe and nurturing environment,” said First Lady Lauren Baker. “The Massachusetts Safe Sleep Campaign will raise awareness and deliver important information to the public about safe sleeping habits so that babies and mothers across Massachusetts can thrive.”
Certain infants are at higher risk for sudden unexpected infant deaths. Babies who are exposed to smoke of any kind, who have a low birth weight and/or are born prematurely are at high risk. Black non-Hispanic infants have a higher risk compared to other racial/ethnic groups. Caretaker behaviors can increase or decrease an infant’s risk of sudden unexpected infant death. For example, sleeping in the same bed as a baby, especially if the caretaker is using any medication that makes them drowsy or alcohol, increases the risk of rolling over on, and potentially killing, the baby. Families affected by opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders are often at high risk, as they are more likely to smoke or use nicotine products, and are more likely to use at least one sedating drug or medication.
“As a society, we encourage bonding, skin to skin contact, and closeness with a baby, but our messages about safe sleep require physical distance from the baby, especially if they or their care taker is at risk,” said DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel. “This can make practicing safe sleep counterintuitive for some caretakers.”
“We understand that these recommendations are not always easy to follow,” said Department of Children and Families Medical Director Dr. Linda Sagor. “But we have committed ourselves to listening to our families and engaging in conversations about both the difficulties of safe sleep and the importance of ensuring that we provide it.”
“Raising awareness about safe sleep practices is a critical part of avoiding preventable infant death. As temperatures drop it is a perfect time to have this conversation since risk factors such as the use of blankets in the crib increase during this time of year,” said Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan. “By engaging family, friends and all members of the community we can do more to encourage awareness and conversations about ways to protect babies.”
The campaign will include displays on public transit systems in areas with the highest rates of sudden unexpected infant death, including Boston, Fall River and New Bedford, Athol and Gardner, and Greenfield. Advertising will also appear on Facebook, YouTube, and other online platforms through the end of November. The materials acknowledge the love and fierce protection parents feel for their children and help reinforce how parents can best keep babies as safe while they sleep before their first birthday.
For more guidance on infant safe sleep or to download the campaign posters visit DPH’s infant safe sleep website at www.mass.gov/safesleep.