Many years ago, hospitals weren’t required to ensure that new babies went home in a car seat. That simple act of normalizing car seat safety as infants leave the hospital and head home with new, and often overwhelmed, parents and caregivers has no doubt saved countless lives. Today, hospitals can play a similarly crucial role in helping every baby sleep safe.

 

It’s as Easy as ABC

More than 61,000 babies are born in Colorado every year.1 Those first days and months are full of joy and stress for every family, so it’s important that each baby is surrounded by parents, family, friends, neighbors, licensed and unlicensed child care providers, health care professionals and communities working to create environments for infants to thrive and sleep safely.

Health care providers and hospital staff are sources of trusted information for new parents and have a critical opportunity to help families thrive, even after a family has left the hospital, by focusing on safe sleep in these precious first few days together.

And the ABC’s of safe sleep are simple and easy: babies should be Alone on their Backs and in a Crib. This means that babies should sleep on their backs on a firm, flat surface, separate from adults or others, without any bumpers, soft bedding or stuffed toys.     

Birthing Hospitals Are the First Step

Birthing hospitals play a critical role in teaching new parents and caregivers what safe sleep practices look like–so much so that, in the Colorado Child Fatality Prevention System’s most recent annual legislative report, one of the recommendations made following the review of child fatalities in Colorado was to support policies that expand education, modeling and discharge safety screening in birthing hospitals.

According to the report, at least six states require hospitals and health care providers to give parents and caregivers educational materials and information on infant safe sleep practices within health care settings, during a hospital stay or at discharge.2,3 The depth and breadth of safe sleep practices and policies at Colorado’s birthing hospitals is not widely or easily known.

Hospitals have multiple options for demonstrating their commitment to safe sleep in practice:

Shifting Practice through Cribs for Kids

For hospitals looking for a straightforward place to start, the Cribs for Kids National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program may be the best fit. Hospitals participating in this no-cost program receive resources and support in drafting safe sleep policies for their organization, training for all health care providers in safe sleep, safe sleep educational materials for families and caregivers, support for modeling safe sleep in all settings (labor and delivery, NICUs, etc.), and messaging around safe sleep in alignment with the AAP’s recommendations.

Cribs for Kids also provides a step-by-step hospital certification toolkit that guides organizations through certification requirements at the bronze, silver or gold levels depending on their commitments, policies and practices related to infant safe sleep. Of all the hospitals in Colorado, only one is currently certified by Cribs for Kids: Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, which is certified at the gold level.4

Certification programs like Cribs for Kids are just a start for shifting practice and addressing families’ needs. For long term changes in practice, ongoing support and accountability–such as through a quality improvement approach–are needed to sustain change. Additionally, input from families, especially around considerations for cultural responsiveness, linguistic accessibility and social and economic needs, is needed to develop hospital efforts that truly work for Colorado families.

While the first few days at a hospital are only one part of a new or expanding family’s safe sleep journey, Colorado has an opportunity–and an obligation–to shift practice in order to give our families the strongest and safest start possible.

Get Involved in October--and Beyond

>> October is Safe Sleep and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. Illuminate has put together some of our favorite resources to help community members and organizations alike raise awareness about this important topic, but it will take a sustained effort far beyond this month to create safe sleep for every baby everywhere in Colorado. 

>> Click HERE to learn more about the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership‘s mission to support families, providers, organizations and policymakers to increase infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities through education, practice change and systems improvement.

>> Sign up to receive our safe sleep newsletter to receive more updates on this important work and ideas for parents, caregivers, organizations and communities to create safe sleep for every baby everywhere.   

Citations
  1. Colorado Health Information Dataset (CoHID), Live Birth Statistics, Counts, 2020 Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment retrieved on August 2021 from https://cohealthviz.dphe.state.co.us/t/HealthInformaticsPublic/views/COHIDLiveBirthsDashboard/LiveBirthStatistics. 
  2. The Network for Public Health Law. (2017). SUID Prevention, Infant Safe Sleep Law Table: Legal Provisions Relating to SUID Prevention in 5 States. Research conducted for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. To access: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NcPJerdHa1QrENg4nAdB2BPXqOeqJ8nl/view?usp=sharing
  3. Child Fatality Prevention System. (2021). Child Fatality Prevention System Annual Legislative Report. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 41-42.
  4. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). (2015). Sudden unexpected infant death legislation.

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