Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals | Kathy Kliebert, Secretary

Statewide Initiatives

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Health Department Emphasizes Importance of Safe Sleep Environment for Infants During SIDS Awareness Month

Monday, October 1, 2012  |  Contact: Media & Communications: Phone: 225.342.1532, E-mail:

BATON ROUGE—In Louisiana, approximately 80 babies die each year from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which is the broad medical term for sudden, unexplained deaths of infants before they reach their first birthdays. SIDS occurs when otherwise healthy babies die in their sleep for no apparent reason.  

While health professionals do not know what causes SIDS, there are a number of steps parents and caregivers can take to reduce a baby's risk of SIDS. The Department of Health and Hospitals' Maternal and Child Health Program is running a SIDS Risk Reduction and Safe Sleep campaign during October, which is SIDS Awareness Month, to educate parents about the importance of safe sleep in lowering a baby's SIDS risk.

"The biggest key to preventing SIDS is to create a safe sleeping environment for your baby," said Dr. Takeisha Davis, medical director for the DHH Office of Public Health. "First, parents should never share a bed with their baby. Place your baby to sleep on his back, in his own crib, and make sure there is no excess bedding, pillows or toys in bed with him because these are a smothering risk. It's also important that parents quit smoking because babies who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to die of SIDS."

SIDS can occur in any family, regardless of race, ethnic background, or socioeconomic level.  But, there are some known factors that increase a baby's risk of SIDS, including:

  • Sleep position (babies sleeping on their tummies or sides are a higher risk of SIDS than those who sleep on their backs)
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Sleep environment and bedding (softer surfaces have a higher risk of SIDS and suffocation)
  • Low birth weight (baby weighing less than 5.5 pounds at birth)
  • Premature babies
  • Baby overheating during sleep
  • Mother smoking during pregnancy

Health officials have worked in the past several years to educate parents about the dangers of co-sleeping, which is when infants sleep in a bed or other location where others, adults and/or older children, are sleeping. This places the infant at a higher risk of suffocation or having his airway crushed when parents or other bedmates roll over on the baby. Co-sleeping babies have also strangled between head boards and mattresses.

Because of the high risks, co-sleeping is not recommended for babies, and parents and caregivers should not fall asleep with an infant in their beds, or on a sofa or recliner.  Parents can bring an infant in bed with them for nursing or comforting, but should always put the baby back in his own crib or bassinet when the parents are ready to sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a separate but nearby sleeping environment for babies, such as a separate crib in the parents' bedroom.  

Parents should also create a safe sleep environment in this separate sleeping area for their baby:

  • Place your baby on his/her back.
  • Do not share the bed with your baby
  • Pillows, cushions, sofas and adult beds are NOT safe sleep surfaces for an infant
  • Use a crib with a firm mattress that meets Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines
  • No excess bedding, comforters or pillows in the baby's bed
  • No bumper pads, toys or stuffed animals in the crib
  • Wedges or positioners are not recommended.
  • Dress your baby in light clothing.
  • Keep the bedroom temperature comfortable as for a lightly clothed adult.

For more information on SIDS and how to create a safe sleep environment for your baby, visit

Tobacco cessation is another important aspect of lowering a baby's SIDS risk. Pregnant women, parents of babies under age one and their family members who wish to quit smoking or using other tobacco products can call the State's tobacco cessation Quitline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, to receive personalized counseling sessions from a  quit coach. More information about tobacco cessation resources is available at

In October, the Maternal and Child Health Program will hold a series of information sessions for service providers and community representatives who are interested in learning more about the SIDS Risk Reduction and Safe Sleep campaign.  During these sessions, MEE Productions Inc. (a grassroots communications and marketing firm) will introduce the campaign components to various stakeholders, sharing the campaign materials and advertisements and fielding questions about campaign implementation. The schedule for these information sessions will be posted on   

In addition, the DHH Office of Public Health will participate in the Safe Sleep Summit on Oct. 19 at the West Monroe Convention Center, organized by the Children's Coalition for Northeast Louisiana. For more information about the summit and to register, contact