Protecting Newborn Infants – Sleep Safety

May 6, 2015
Legislative press conference in Hartford, announcing legislation to protect newborn infants from dangerous sleep practices.

Legislative press conference in Hartford, announcing legislation to protect newborn infants from dangerous sleep practices.

Hartford, CT – Today State Senator Tony Guglielmo (R-Stafford) voted in favor of Senate Bill 258 which requires hospitals, through their maternity programs, to provide the parents of newborn infants and legal guardians with written information on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for safe sleep practices.

“Before new parents leave the hospital staff will be instructed to teach safe-sleep techniques. This type of death is a highly preventable, which makes it even more traumatic – when it happens,” said Sen. Guglielmo.

In 2013, at least 18 child deaths were associated with unsafe sleep environments, including co-sleeping with parents or older siblings in an adult bed, sleeping overnight in a car seat outside of a motor vehicle and sleeping on their stomach.

Experts say one of the biggest contributing factors to such deaths is placing the baby in a crib with pillows, blankets, comforters, crib bumpers or stuffed animals. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies be placed on their backs to sleep, without soft bedding in their cribs.

“Over the last 12 years, the number of Connecticut infants who died where unsafe sleep conditions were present was almost three times the number of infants who died from child abuse,” said Sarah Eagan, the state’s Child Advocate. “Infants in Connecticut are more likely to die where unsafe sleeping conditions are present than from child abuse, car accidents, choking, drowning, falls, or any other source of accidental injury. These deaths are preventable, and a key strategy recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics is offering information and safe sleep strategies for new parents as part of primary care and hospital discharge. Information and support for parents can save children’s lives and prevent these tragic losses for families.”

During debate in the Public Health Committee it was revealed that while many hospitals already instruct parents about safe-sleep techniques, those directives are often presented inconsistently.

This bill would mandate safe-sleep instruction, just as hospitals are required to ensure parents have a car seat installed before taking their baby home. There is no extra cost to hospitals as it can be incorporated into existing maternity programs.

“The importance of new parents hearing consistent information about a safe sleep environment cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Kirsten Bechtel, Associate Professor of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. “This information should be consistently delivered and reinforced to parents by health care providers, starting at the time of newborn hospital discharge and through the first year of life during routine health maintenance visits.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following safe sleep practices:

  • Always place babies on their backs for sleep
  • Use a firm sleep surface covered by a fitted sheet
  • Have the baby share the parent’s room, but not the parent’s bed
  • Keep soft objects, including pillows and loose bedding, out of a baby’s sleep area

California, Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania have passed similar laws. If passed by the full general assembly and signed by the governor the bill would go into effect October 1, 2015.