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FOR RELEASE: October 10, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

SIDS Campaign Promotes "Back to Sleep"

A parent's worst nightmare is the loss of an infant or child. Parents of young infants may worry about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the sudden and unexplained death of an infant less than 1 year of age and the leading cause of death among infants from 1 month to 1 year of age.

About 50 to 60 SIDS deaths occur each year in Oklahoma. SIDS can happen in families of all races, religions and income levels, however, a disproportionate number of Oklahoma's SIDS deaths are infants who are African American or American Indian.

Researchers have found that one of the most important ways to reduce an infant's risk of dying of SIDS is to put the infant to sleep on his/her back. In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement recommending that all healthy infants be placed on their backs to sleep. A national “Back to Sleep” campaign was launched in 1994 to promote placing babies to sleep on their backs.

Since the “Back to Sleep” campaign was implemented, SIDS deaths in the United States have declined more than 40 percent. Oklahoma has also experienced an overall decline in SIDS deaths, yet the rate of African American and American Indian infants dying from SIDS has not declined. Health officials fear the “Back to Sleep” message is not reaching Oklahoma's minority populations.

“We must continue our public awareness efforts about the dangers of placing infants to sleep on their stomachs. ALL parents and caregivers of infants need to hear the 'Back to Sleep' message, with a concerted effort to reach African American and American Indian communities. Physicians, nurses, hospitals, child care educators, clinics and county health departments should assist in the education and promotion of placing infants to sleep on their backs,” said Dr. Edd Rhoades, chief of the Maternal and Child Health Service at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Rhoades said many child care providers have not heard of the “Back to Sleep” recommendations and continue to put babies to sleep on their tummies. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services Division of Child Care, with the collaboration of the state health department's SIDS Program, recently sent a letter and “Back to Sleep” brochure to all licensed child care facilities in Oklahoma, reminding them of the importance of placing infants to sleep on their backs.

October is National SIDS Awareness Month. In an effort to keep the message of the “Back to Sleep” campaign alive, the Oklahoma State Department of Health recommends the following safety tips:

  • Place infants to sleep on their backs.
  • Never place infants to sleep on waterbeds, sofas, soft mattresses or other soft surfaces.
  • Do not place soft materials like pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, and stuffed toys near sleeping infants.
  • Do not expose infants to cigarette smoke before or after birth. The risk of SIDS doubles around cigarette smoke.
  • If possible, encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies. Breastmilk helps keep their babies healthy.
  • Only place infants on their stomachs when they are awake and can be supervised. This is important for developmental purposes and to help prevent flat spots from forming on the back of their heads.

Materials about the “Back to Sleep” campaign are available from the state health department's Maternal and Child Health Service, SIDS program, at (405) 271-4470. The national campaign can be reached at (800) 505-2742.

Organizations providing support services to bereaved parents and caregivers may be reached at Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Alliance, 1314 Bedford Ave., Suite 210, Baltimore, MD, 21208; phone (800) 221-7437; website,www.sidsalliance.org; or the Oklahoma SIDS Alliance, P.O. Box 12282, Oklahoma City, OK, 73157; phone (800) 248-7437.

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