Health Education

Safe Sleep for Infants

July 19, 2018

In Florida, infant sleep-related deaths can be prevented but alarmingly we have one of the highest rates in the country.

Is your baby sleeping on his or her back? Is the crib or sleeping space clear of stuffed animals and pillows that could move onto your baby and cause suffocation?

Your baby’s growth and development are tied to consistent and safe sleep. Even putting your baby down for a nap with a headband is risky. It can slip down over the baby’s mouth or onto neck and cause problems. While the circumstances may sound odd that such a basic human need can be so threatening, the truth is sleep-related deaths are a large portion of all child fatalities in Florida.  

All three of St. Vincent’s Family Birth Places in northeast Florida are certified by Cribs for Kids as National Infant Safe Sleep Hospitals. With training and a commitment to patient and community education, St. Vincent’s is seeing the positive impact. 

Educating about Safe Sleep Environments

“Florida and Texas have two of the highest rates of sleep-related deaths in the country. It’s an alarming stat, but these are preventable deaths,” says Athea Whitehead, Family Birth Place system director. “One of the things we’ve found across all cases is the baby was not sleeping in a safe environment.  The temperature is too high, stuffed animals and pillows crowd the baby’s bed, they’re wearing headbands or other unnecessary items. These were the things we had to educate our new mothers about.”  Birth Place educators started the education process with doctors, nurses and office staff who interact with new mothers. The nurses take the lead on educating mothers, fathers, and any caregiver who would tend to the newborn. 


Steps to Safe Sleep

  1. Look at your baby’s sleep environment and remove items that could cause suffocation.
  2. Always put the infant to sleep on his or her back.
  3. Older children and adults should not fall asleep with the infant in a bed or couch. The baby could be crushed.
  4. Check cribs, so moving parts are secure, and rails are in place, so the baby avoids rolling out of bed.  

If the baby is awake, tummy time is encouraged, but newborns should never sleep on their stomach. The baby’s bed should be kept free of all clutter, including excessive large blankets and quilts that could smother the baby. 

Swaddling the baby is best and helps your baby feel secure. At our Family Birth Place, every parent who delivers here gets a sleep sack as a gift. The sleep sack wraps the baby up snugly and zips shut, functioning as a sort of sleeping bag for infants.

Continued Commitment to Safe Sleep

Becoming a safe-sleep certified hospital means our Birth Place units transformed the essential mother-baby education we share with every family. We looked at our own environment to make sure there were no photos or artwork that show babies in unsafe sleeping positions.

Attaining certification was a daunting year-long effort and now all three of St. Vincent’s Family Birth Place units are “Gold” Safe Sleep certified by Cribs for Kids -- the highest level. St. Vincent’s is the first health system in Northeast Florida to achieve gold certification.

While the Birth Place team is obviously thrilled to have attained such lofty recognition, our goal is to save lives. 
“Of course we always aim for the gold, but regardless of our certification level, we knew we wanted to use this opportunity to give back to our community by teaching our new parents how to better care for their baby,” said Whitehead. “If we can prevent just one sleep-related fatality with the education we’re providing, then we’re happy with what we’ve done.”

For information from the Birth Place about the sleep sack and related parent education call;  

Clay County 904-602-2229
Riverside 904-308-6359
Southside 904-296-5212