New York State and City Officials Launch Statewide
“Babies Sleep Safest Alone” Public Education Campaign
New York State Office of Children & Family Services (OCFS) Commissioner Gladys Carrión, New York City Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, New York City Administration for Children Services (ACS) Commissioner John Mattingly, and local social services commissioners across the state today launched a joint state-wide campaign to stop a preventable tragedy: infants dying as a result of sharing a bed with an adult.
OCFS data shows 89 infant or young child fatality reports to the state since 2006, where the child was sharing a bed with a parent, sibling, or caregiver. In New York City, there were 49 reports involving the deaths of children in 2006-2007 in instances where the child was sharing a bed with an adult.
OCFS estimates that approximately 20 percent of the child fatalities reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR) involved bed-sharing. Three-quarters of the children in these bed-sharing or co-sleeping incidents were newborn to three months old. Adult co-sleepers involved in these incidents were most likely the child’s 18-to-24-year old mother.
Bed-sharing (sometimes also called co-sleeping) is extremely dangerous, according to health experts nationally. If an adult or child rolls over on a baby, the baby can be hurt or even suffocated. Sleeping with a child is especially dangerous if caregivers drink, use drugs, are overweight, or sleep on a couch. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep separately from their parents in a crib or bassinet placed nearby the adult bed to facilitate breastfeeding and contact.
“Just over a dozen small children died so far this year in beds they were sharing with their caregivers,” Commissioner Carrión said today at a press conference at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Hospital maternity ward. “These may have been preventable deaths.”
“Last year, 33% of fatalities investigated by ACS were a result of children sharing a bed with an adult. That is why our public outreach featuring the message that babies sleep safest alone, on their backs is so vital. The City’s ongoing agency collaboration and work with our partners at the State enables us to develop and implement innovative reforms that help us keep our most vulnerable residents – our children – safe,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs.
Unveiling the campaign at NYC’s Metropolitan Hospital are
(l-r) OCFS Commissioner Gladys Carrion, ACS Commissioner John
Mattingly, José R. Sánchez, Sr. Vice President, of the Health &
Hospital Corporation's Generations Northern Manhattan Health
Network; and from Metropolitan Hospital, Meryl Weinberg, Executive
Director, Dr. Sarla Inamdar, Chief of Pediatrics and Dr. Sari Kaminsky,
Chief of OB/GYN.
Commissioner Mattingly said Children’s Services routinely provides cribs to those NYC families who are involved in an ongoing child protective investigation following a report of abuse or neglect, if the families involved do not already have a crib or bassinet for their babies.
“As the City’s child welfare agency, it is our mission to prevent any accidents or injuries to children whenever we can identify risk and safety factors,” Commissioner Mattingly said. “Sharing a bed with an infant is definitely one of these red flags, along the lines of needing window guards to prevent falls. Tragically, we’ve seen too many babies die in bed-sharing situations. We urge the public to join with us in spreading this message to all parents.”
A free brochure about safe sleeping is available in New York City by calling 3-1-1.
Other New York City agencies with responsibility for working with parents and families are also committed to educating caregivers about the dangers of bed-sharing, as are nonprofit agencies. At the NYC Health and Hospital’s Corporation, responsible for the City’s public hospitals where nearly 22,000 babies are born each year, HHC's doctors, nurses, breast-feeding coordinators and health educators will provide co-sleeping education to pregnant women, families and care givers during pre-natal clinic visits and mothers' post-delivery hospital stays. Multi-language brochures will be included in HHC's complimentary breast-feeding bags given to all mothers to bring home.
The New York City Health Department (DOHMH) is addressing the problem of these infant deaths through the NYC Safe Sleep Initiative, which promotes awareness of a safe sleep environment. Health Department staff provide one-on-one safe sleep education and portable cribs to families through a one time visit to new mothers in the Newborn Home Visiting Program serving North and Central Brooklyn, East and Central Harlem and the South Bronx. Women enrolled in the Nurse-Family Partnership, a nurse home visiting program for low income, first time mothers are also eligible for cribs. The Department also provides safe sleep peer education training to communities-based organizations.
The Department of Homeless Services provides extensive information to all clients with children younger than two years old – at intake, in shelter and as they leave shelter – that describes the dangers of adults sharing a bed with a child. This includes classes, brochures, videos and signage. In addition, shelter staff receive training on crib inspection and teaching clients the proper way to use a crib.
For a list of events and more information on the Babies Sleep Safest Alone campaign, visit ocfs.state.ny.us. Please also see the attached Fact Sheet for more information on the campaign.
ACS Press Office: (212) 341-0999
The “BABIES SLEEP SAFEST ALONE” public education campaign comprises the following:
- Simultaneous campaign media launches in New York’s Designated Market Areas (DMAs), including New York City, Buffalo, Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, Plattsburgh, Binghamton, Utica, Elmira, and Watertown, and, over the next month, in over three dozen counties, including: Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schuyler, Seneca, Suffolk, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Warren, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates.
- A “BABIES SLEEP SAFEST ALONE” English and Spanish-language radio campaign across New York
State targeting caregivers 18 to 39 years old.
- Distribution of 200,000 English and Spanish-language “BABIES SLEEP SAFEST ALONE” posters,
200,000 English and Spanish pamphlets, and 15,000 baby bibs through the Office
of Children and Family Services “NY Loves Safe Babies” network. This includes
professional associations, doctors’ offices, child care providers, family
resource centers, county social services and health offices, Red Cross
babysitter training programs, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) centers,
maternity hospitals and birthing centers, prenatal programs, adolescent
pregnancy programs, kinship care programs, Healthy Families New York Home
Visiting Programs, high school family and consumer science education programs
and the infant industry.
- “BABIES SLEEP SAFEST ALONE” Public Service Announcement telecast over the Cablevision and
Time Warner Cable networks.
- Launch of a “BABIES SLEEP SAFEST ALONE” website and Facebook page where a fact sheet,
pamphlets, and video and audio podcasts will be available for viewing and
- Outreach effort to English and Spanish-language daily
and weekly newspapers and magazines; parenting & family writers,
columnists, websites and blogs; editorial boards; and television and radio
- Links to the “BABIES SLEEP SAFEST ALONE” public education campaign on state, municipal, contractor, and vendor websites.
For more information, visit ocfs.state.ny.us/babiessleepsafestalone
call 1 (800) 345-KIDS.