Safe Sleeping Practices for Infants Saves Young Lives

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The Safe Sleep Hawaii committee is addressing a serious problem in Hawaii: healthy infants dying unexpectedly because of unsafe sleep practices.

Currently sleep related injuries are by far the leading cause of injury-related deaths among infants in Hawaii, and the third leading cause of death overall.


The Safe Sleep committee wants to urge caretakers to place infants on their backs while sleeping and warn them that there are other factors present that make the sleep environment unsafe.

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a recommendation that infants sleep on their backs to prevent sleep related deaths.

Soon after, the “Back to Sleep” public awareness campaign was launched nationally and the number of sleep related infants deaths in Hawaii dropped dramatically.

Since then, the number of sleep-related deaths went from 26 in 1992 to an average of 10 in recent years.

However, these deaths continue to be a significant problem. The Safe Sleep Hawaii committee maintains that even one infant death is too many.

Sleeping on the stomach is a significant risk factor of a multifaceted problem that has been linked to otherwise healthy infants dying unexpectedly. Continuing studies have uncovered other sleep practices that present risks. These include:

*Mother’s smoking

*Overheating of infant

*Use of soft beddings, comforters, pillows, plush toys in sleep area

*Old cribs and playpens that do not meet safety standards

”The “Back to Sleep” messages are:”

Always place your baby on his back to sleep, even for naps, even if you are right next to baby.

Make sure your crib has a firm, tight fitting mattress and meets current safety standards.

Do not allow pillows or any other soft bedding or toys in your baby’s sleep area.

Make sure your baby’s head and face is never covered.

Do not allow smoking around your baby.

Do not let your baby get too warm during sleep.

Share these messages with all who care for your baby.

It is imperative that we disseminate these messages as soon as possible. We need to educate everyone about the importance of providing infants with safe sleeping environments to prevent unnecessary deaths from occurring.

”’The Safe Sleep Hawaii committee is comprised of many public agencies and community organizations that provide services to families with infants and young children. Through these collaborative efforts, the committee has developed a “Back to Sleep” handout that is available on line at the Keiki Injury Prevention Coalition Web site at:”’ ”’and in printed form from the Department of Health at (808)733-4056. For more information, contact Dan Galanis, Injury Prevention Epidemiologist, Department of Health at Phone: (808)586-5943 or Darcie Yukimura, Information Specialist, Department of Health, Phone:(808) 586-4442”’