By KID ED Nancy Cowles
Every two years, the organization Cribs for Kids gathers the nation’s experts on safe sleep along with all of us who attempt to improve infant sleeping environments in Pittsburgh for a three day conference. It is a great opportunity to learn and share programs and approaches that are working to keep children safe.
The mission of Cribs for Kids is to prevent infant deaths by educating parents and caregivers on the importance of practicing safe sleep and by providing portable cribs to families who cannot afford a safe place for their babies to sleep.
The conference opened with a valuable history lesson by Dr. Eileen Tyrala. Did you know that the baby in the biblical story about King Solomon had died in an unsafe sleeping environment? He was overlaid by his mother in bed. Throughout history, health and safety advocates, including Florence Nightingale, spoke for the need for a safe sleep place for babies. This history lesson helped put current efforts in a new light and encourage us to keep working so every baby has a safe place to sleep.
Dr. Rachel Moon, perhaps one of the best known experts on infant sleep reviewed current safe sleep intervention models. Everything was covered from in-hospital programs to home visiting, to child death review to better learn how to prevent deaths. She spoke of the need for more evaluation of programs so we can better identify what is most effective.
Dr. Robert A. Darnall spoke about what we know and don’t know about Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). For instance, soft bedding such as crib bumpers have been identified as a risk factor for both SIDS and suffocation. But soft bedding may not pose a risk for most babies – just those that are vulnerable. The problem? We have yet to identify clearly which infants are vulnerable for SUID. The solution? We must provide a safe environment for all babies to sleep. The history of Back to Sleep campaign shows it works.
Throughout the week, practitioners from throughout the country spoke of local programs they have implemented to improve infant safety. One of the most interesting is the D.O.S.E. program from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. First responders including fire fighters and EMT are trained to look for signs that an infant is in the household and once the emergency is dealt with, give the family a Safe Sleep Pack and if possible inspect and improve the sleeping environment for the baby. This might just mean clearing out the soft bedding and explaining why that is important or it might mean getting a crib or play yard into the home.
Charlie’s Kids – a nonprofit started by parents whose son died in his sleep – provides board books for parents. The book not only shows safe sleep for babies and encourages parents to read to their infant, the back has safe sleep tips for parents to review while holding their infant as they fall asleep.
KID brings a unique perspective to the group since we focus on products in a safe sleep environment. We spoke about the need to check for recalls, avoid sleep products that don’t meet a safety standard, and educate parents on how to use the CPSC’s SaferProducts.gov to check the products they use.
Not only does the Crib for Kids conference provide a wealth of valuable information and new ideas to integrate into our programs, it energizes and encourages us to double our efforts to keep children safe.