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U.S. Expands SIDS Prevention Effort

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is ramping up efforts to reduce the risk of sleep-related sudden infant deaths, the agency announced Wednesday.

The NIH has expanded and revised the "Back to Sleep" campaign launched in 1994 to educate parents and caregivers about ways to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It will now be known as the "Safe to Sleep" campaign and include all sleep-related sudden unexpected infant deaths, including those due to SIDS, as well as deaths from other causes.

SIDS is the sudden death of an infant younger than 1 year that cannot be explained, even after a complete investigation, autopsy and review of the infant's health history. The "Back to Sleep" campaign encouraged parents and caregivers to place healthy infants to sleep on their backs, a practice proven to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Infants could also be at risk for other sleep-related causes of death, however, such as accidental suffocation and entrapment by a mattress or bedding material. The NIH has expanded its campaign to ensure infants are provided with a safe sleep environment.

"In recent years, we've learned that many of the risk factors for SIDS are similar to those for other sleep-related causes of infant death," Dr. Alan Guttmacher, director of the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Safe to Sleep sponsor, said in an NIH news release. "Placing infants on their backs to sleep and providing them with a safe sleep environment for every sleep time reduces the risk for SIDS as well as death from other causes, such as suffocation."

In addition to placing infants under 1 year old on their backs for all sleep times, the Safe to Sleep campaign recommends parents and caregivers also take the following steps:

  • Infants should always have their own safe place to sleep. This environment should be free from any soft bedding, blankets or quilts. Infants should also not share a bed with an adult.
  • Infants should be breast-fed whenever possible. Breast-feeding, the NIH explained, is linked to a reduced risk of SIDS.
  • Parents should also ensure infants do not become overheated.
  • Infants should not be exposed to tobacco smoke.
  • Breast-feeding mothers should avoid alcohol or other drugs.

A new "Safe to Sleep" DVD and website are expected to become available in October. Materials will also be available in Spanish. Additional materials will target black and American Indian/Alaska Native communities, which have higher SIDS rates.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about SIDS.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: U.S. National Institutes of Health, news release, Sept. 12, 2012

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