Protecting Babies From Sleep-Related Deaths Starts With Painting a Clear Picture

Posted January 28, 2016 by Cindy Hutter

In this occasional Innovation Showcase feature series, NICHQ highlights nonprofits and unique initiatives that are having an impact on children’s health.

First Candle, Baby Sleeping Safely
First Candle is calling on everyone who creates or uses photos of sleeping babies in advertising or elsewhere to adhere to their safe sleep image guidelines.

Today’s parents and parents-to-be rely a great deal on the Internet, print and broadcast media to inform their childcare and parenting practices. Yet in a recent study of magazines targeting women of child-bearing age, more than one-third of images showed babies in unsafe sleep positions (e.g., on their stomachs) and more than two-thirds showed babies in unsafe sleep environments (e.g., in a crib with blankets). Thousands of precious lives could be saved each year if every parent and caregiver had a clear picture of what it takes to protect their babies during sleep.

First Candle, an organization dedicated to promoting safe pregnancies and the survival of babies through the first years of life, has taken the lead in developing a nationwide campaign to address the disturbing statistics about sleep-related infant deaths. Through a Safe Sleep Media Stars campaign, the organization is targeting print, broadcast and Internet media and encouraging that they only use photography that reflects current safe sleep recommendations outlined in First Candle’s Safe Sleep Image Guidelines. The recommendations include:

  • Babies being placed to sleep or sleeping on their backs.
  • Cribs, portable cribs, play yards and bassinets that meet current safety standards, and are free from any soft bedding items, i.e. blankets, quilts, bumper pads and stuffed animals or toys. Bassinets should not have padded sides.
  • Babies sleeping ALONE, not with a parent other adult, child or pet.
  • Mattresses that fit snugly in the crib, play yard or bassinet, covered with only a tight-fitting sheet.
  • Crib mattresses at the lowest level for babies old enough to pull up or stand.
  • Room sharing for babies younger than six months, showing the baby’s separate, safe, sleep space in the room with or alongside the adult bed.
  • A pacifier with a sleeping baby older than one month.
  • Sleeping babies dressed in a wearable blanket or other type sleeper clothing for warmth.
But First Candle can’t do it alone. First Candle and the NAPPSS Coalition (National Action Partnership to Promote Safe Sleep) are teaming up to provide local, state and national organizations and partners with the resources needed to support this nationwide effort. Many resources are available for download on First Candle’s website, including: sample letters, safe sleep image guidelines, and a safe sleep photo library.

“Only by applying constant pressure will we be able to change long-standing marketing practices that use unsafe imagery of infant sleep positions and environments,” says Laura Reno, director of marketing communications at First Candle.

Adds Barbara Himes, First Candle’s director of education and training, “In doing so, we could quite literally save thousands of precious lives every year.


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