September is Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month

Governor Rick Snyder has declared September as Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month to highlight the importance of preventing sleep-related infant deaths. A baby in Michigan dies nearly every other day due to sleeping in an unsafe sleep environment — that’s over 150 babies every year.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the unexpected and sudden death of apparently healthy babies, is the third leading cause of infant death, behind premature birth and medical conditions.

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare; putting their baby to sleep and discovering the next morning that the child has passed away. In the U.S., more than 3,500 infants die each year from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS and from what experts describe as “other sleep-related causes of infant death.” Sparing families the incomprehensible tragedy has been a long-term goal of the Welcome Newborns program.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the sudden death of an infant younger than one year of age that remains unexplained after a complete investigation, which may include an autopsy, a review of the death scene, and a review of family and medical histories. They have also learned that even the healthiest of infants may be at increased risk of death just from the environment they are sleeping in.

Research has shown that the very first time an infant is placed face down to sleep is when SIDS occurs. In addition, research has shown that three out of four of the sleep-related deaths involve children sleeping in unsafe locations such as adult beds and two out of three deaths involve infants who were not sleeping on their backs.

The good news is that by providing infants with an appropriate sleep environment, it is possible to greatly reduce the risk of SIDS and the risk for what researchers now call “sudden unexpected infant deaths.” For more than 14 years, the Welcome Newborns program has participated in a campaign to advise parents, caregivers and health care providers on safe infant sleep practices.

Established in 1996, the mission of the Welcome Newborns program is to provide support to newborns and their families by identifying community resources and providing research based educational material regarding child development, caring for their child, child abuse prevention and parenting. The Delta County Welcome Newborns program is educating new parents on their baby’s Safe Sleep Environment. Caregivers are often unaware of risk reduction practices, including placing babies on their backs to sleep, choosing safe bedding, keeping babies from overheating, choosing breastfeeding when possible, and creating tobacco free environments.

Research shows that half of the infants who die from Sudden Unexpected death do so while sleeping with their parents. Most deaths occur in colder months when heavy blankets are used, or due to overheating.

Despite a 23-year campaign urging that babies be put to bed on their backs, only 43 percent of U.S. mothers report that they both intend to use this method and actually do so all of the time. The Safe to Sleep campaign has been telling both caregivers and parents to use this position since 1994.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, placing babies on their backs nap time and night time reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, an unexplained fatal condition also known as SIDS, as well as other sleep-related infant deaths like suffocation.

“As a part of our efforts to reduce the number of infant deaths in Delta County, the Welcome Newborns program of Delta County distributes free Halo Sleep Sacks (premium wearable blankets) to Delta County parents regardless of their income or where their baby was born” said Lannie Berg, Welcome Newborns program coordinator. The free wearable blankets are available during the last trimester of their pregnancy, or following their baby’s birth. Designed by a parent who lost an infant to SIDS, the wearable blanket replaces loose blankets which can cover the baby’s face and interfere with breathing.

Delta County parents can contact the Welcome Newborns Program of Delta County to request a wearable blanket. The HALO Sleep Sacks are available during the last three months of pregnancy or following the birth of their baby. The Newborn size is available in fleece or cotton and fits newborns that weigh six to twelve pounds.

To learn more about SIDS Risk Prevention, or to request a HALO Sleep Sack, contact Lannie Berg at the Welcome Newborns office located at the Community Action Agency in Escanaba, 786-7080 ext. 143 or via email at