Reducing Infant Deaths: Back to Sleep Campaign


Each year in the United States, we are faced with 3,500 sleep-related deaths among infants less than 1 year old. Causes of death for these infants include sudden infant death (SIDS), accidental suffocation and deaths from unknown causes.

In the 1990s, the “Back to Sleep” campaign helped significantly reduce the number of infant deaths. Florida tracks infant mortality in all counties, and Polk County continues to have a higher than expected number of deaths per 1,000 live births.

Lakeland Regional Hospital partners with the Healthy Start Coalition Safe Sleep Task Force to bring awareness and education to the public so that babies in Polk County and the surrounding communities will thrive!

What we have learned from numerous studies is that stomach sleeping is probably one of the most significant risks for SIDS. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be placed on their backs for every sleep on a firm sleep surface (soft objects and loose bedding should be kept out of the sleep area).  Infants should sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but not in the same bed. Avoid placing an infant in a car seat or infant seat to sleep through the night at home.

To help with proper nutrition, breastfeeding is recommended, as research shows the risk of sudden infant death syndrome is reduced by half (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017).

Sucking on a pacifier while sleeping also been studied, and it was found that the tongue may be prevented from falling back with the use of the pacifier while sleeping, decreasing the risk of oral obstruction. Breastfed babies can have a pacifier introduced after breastfeeding has been well established.

Mothers should avoid exposure to smoke during pregnancy and after birth, as well as avoiding alcohol and illicit drug use. Infants should be dressed appropriately to avoid overheating and should not have their heads covered.

Never use a commercial product in a way that does not support the safe sleep recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Mothers should be encouraged to seek prenatal care early and throughout her pregnancy.  Infants should be immunized in accordance with the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

October is National Safe Sleep Month. We can all do our part to support our mothers and their babies.  Together we can make a difference.

 About the Author

Tracey McKinney, DNP, NNP-BC, CCNS, C-ONQS, is a Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist with Lakeland Regional Health and serves as Chair of the Polk, Highlands, Hardee County Healthy Start Coalition’s Safe Sleep Task Force. Learn more about Lakeland Regional Health’s Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children and our Pediatric locations.