LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the state Department of Health said Friday they have launched a statewide campaign to educate families about the ABCs of safe sleep for infants.
“ABC” is short for alone, on their backs and in a crib.
Dr. Mary Aitken, director of Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s Injury Prevention Center and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said during a news conference at the Health Department’s headquarters that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:
— For at least their first six months, and if possible for their first year, a baby should sleep in the same room with his or her parents but should be alone in a crib and not in the same bed with the parents. Nothing should else should be in the crib — no stuffed animals, pillows, blankets or other soft objects.
— A baby should be placed to sleep on his or her back.
— A baby should sleep in a safety-approved crib with a firm mattress and a tight-fitted sheet and should never be placed to sleep on another surface such as an adult bed, chair, sofa or recliner.
“Sadly, about 3,500 infants die every year in the United States from sleep-related conditions,” Aitken said. “These range from (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), where we don’t really know the full reason for the child to die, to some situations — maybe a quarter of those deaths — which are clearly sleep-related. There’s something in the sleep environment that’s unsafe.”
Arkansas loses 60 infants a year to SIDS and and other sleep-related conditions, which is more than would be expected from a state of its size, Aitken said.
“In fact, between 2010 and 2014 Arkansas had the highest SIDS rate in the country,” she said.
Anna Strong, executive director of child advocacy and public health at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, said the hospital is building a statewide network of care.
“Medical care is an important part of this, but we are also investing in public health strategies that are part of reducing infant deaths in Arkansas,” she said.
Dr. Michelle Smith, director of minority health and health disparities at the state Health Department, said Arkansas is ranked 48th in the nation in infant mortality, with No. 1 being the state with the lowest rate.
“When looking at our infant mortality rate through a larger lens, we see that we have significant disparities by race and ethnicity. African-American infant mortality rates are twice as high compared to white infants, and only 33 percent of African-American moms reported practicing safe sleep, compared to 67 percent of white moms who reported that they had always placed their babies to sleep on their backs,” she said.
The ABCs of Safe Sleep Campaign is timed to coincide with SIDS Awareness Month. Educational materials will be provided to health units, hospitals and offices in the Arkansas Woman, Infants and Children Program across the state.