Infant safe sleep is focus of new MDHHS plan

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has released a plan to improve mother and infant health and end health disparities.

Eliminating infant deaths due to unsafe sleep is among six priorities in the 2020-2023 Mother Infant Health and Equity Improvement Plan. Eliminating all sleep-related deaths would reduce Michigan’s infant mortality rate by almost 19 percent — saving the lives of nearly 150 babies per year, according to the plan from MDHHS in partnership with the Maternal Infant Strategy Group.

From 2010 to 2017, 1,136 Michigan babies died due to sleeping in unsafe environments, such as on soft bedding or on an adult bed, couch or sofa chair, with toys or blankets, with another adult or child or on the stomach or side. Sadly, most of the deaths were preventable. Unsafe sleep can cause death due to asphyxiation.

“As a state, we need to do everything we can to assure that infants are sleeping safely,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS. “Currently, a baby dies nearly every other day in Michigan due to an unsafe sleep environment.”

The plan includes comprehensive statewide strategies to improve the health of mothers, babies and families. Infants sleeping safely is a key driver to achieving the vision of Zero Health Disparities and Zero Preventable Deaths.

To highlight the importance of promoting infant safe sleep, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared September as Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month.

Babies sleeping safely should:

— Be placed on their backs in a crib, bassinet or pack-n-play for every sleep time;

— Always sleep on a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet;

— Not sleep in the same bed as their parent or caregiver. Infants can sleep in the same room as their parent/caregiver;

— Sleep without soft objects or loose bedding, including pillows, blankets, bumper pads, wedges and positioners;

— Sleep at a comfortable temperature that does not overheat them, nor cover their head;

— Always be in a smoke-free environment.

Breastfeeding has been shown to play a role in preventing sleep-related infant deaths. View the complete set of guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics at https//www.aap.org.

As part of the effort to prevent future sleep-related deaths, MDHHS is working with hospitals, local health departments and organizations statewide.

Since January, more than 750 nurses and staff at 20 birthing hospitals across the state have been trained in safe sleep education. One nurse who participated in the training reported in an evaluation form that as a result of the training she will “be doing more teaching at the bedside with new parents and caregivers — more explaining and demonstrating.”

In addition, MDHHS distributed more than 3,000 Infant Safe Sleep Resource Guides to home visitors; Women, Infant and Children program offices; school-based health centers; child welfare workers; Children’s Special Health Care Services programs; and others throughout the state. This guide serves as a resource for educating families on infant safe sleep.

Fifteen local health departments in areas with the greatest number of sleep-related deaths and the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan receive infant safe sleep funds to conduct countywide and jurisdiction-wide education to eliminate unsafe sleep deaths.

The Infant Safe Sleep Program has many other training opportunities and resources available. To learn more, contact the Infant Safe Sleep Program at MDHHS-InfantSafeSleep@michigan.gov. To learn more about infant safe sleep, go to Michigan.gov/safesleep.


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