For years, Hamilton County has lost more babies before their first birthday than it should. Preterm birth, birth defects and unsafe sleep continue to be the three leading causes of infant death each year. Of these, sleep-related deaths are the most preventable and can be avoided by making simple changes in how your baby sleeps.

At Cradle Cincinnati, we urge families to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations based on the newest and best science. This means practicing the “Safe Sleep ABCs” during naptime and at night. Babies sleep safest Alone in an empty crib free of blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, bumper pads and other soft items. Babies sleep safest on their Back, not stomach or side. And a baby sleeps safest in a Crib – portable play yards (Pack N Plays) and bassinets included. In Hamilton County, we see more babies die in co-bedding situations (or when a baby is sleeping with an adult) than from any other sleep-related death. There is no safe way to co-sleep with your baby.

Safe Sleep Surfaces Collage

In 2014, we saw a significant decline in sleep-related deaths. Through 28 separate but aligned initiatives, sleep-related deaths dropped from an average of 16 per year to 7. However, in 2015 the number jumped back up to 14 deaths. The 2014 stats show that when we focus our efforts collectively, our community can have a real impact on health. That said, we need to continually and consistently address safe sleep month after month, year after year.

With nearly 11,000 births each year, thousands of Cincinnatians become first-time parents. It is crucial that each and every one of these parents learns about safe sleep. The “Safe Sleep ABCs” cannot be promoted by healthcare professionals alone. We need grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers, neighbors, faith community members and coworkers rallying around this message.

We know that it can be difficult to follow these safe sleep practices, but it is important. Our babies’ lives depend on it.

How to put babies to sleep safely

  • DO put your baby to sleep on his or her back.  It reduces the risk of SIDS.
  • DO put your baby to sleep in his or her own crib for every sleep.  If you can’t afford a crib, Hamilton County residents can get one for free by calling 211.
  • DO use a firm crib mattress covered by a fitted sheet.
  • DO breastfeed your baby. It reduces the risk of SIDS.
  • DON’T use a car seat, swing, stroller, bouncy seat or infant sling for routine sleep.
  • DON’T ever sleep in the same bed or couch as your baby. The vast majority of sleep-related infant deaths in our community are the result of bed-sharing.
  • DON’T place blankets, pillows, bumpers or stuffed animals in the crib with your baby.
  • DON’T smoke around your baby. It increases the risk of SIDS.

Safe Sleep Post Card

— Sam Hanke, MD, is Safe Sleep Physician lead for Cradle Cincinnati and president and founder of Charlie’s Kids Foundation.