October is Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month in Michigan; Average of 146 Michigan infants die every year due to unsafe sleep

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 20, 2021

CONTACT: Bob Wheaton, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. - With an average of 146 sleep-related infant deaths per year in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared October Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month.

"As parents, grandparents and caregivers, it's crucial for Michiganders to be aware of how to lay infants down to sleep in a safe environment," Gov. Whitmer said. "This Safe Sleep Month, we must recommit ourselves to keeping infants safe as they sleep and working together to help them thrive as they grow up."

Babies from birth to age 1 can be kept safe while sleeping at night and during naps when American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines are followed. Recommendations are to:

  • Place baby on back, in a crib, bassinet or pack n' play of their own with no other people for every sleep time.
  • Use a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet.
  • Keep baby's sleep space clutter-free - no pillows, blankets, or toys.
  • Avoid covering baby's head or overheating. Instead of a blanket, use a sleep sack, wearable blanket or footed sleeper to keep baby warm.
  • Remind everyone, who cares for baby, including babysitters and family members, how to keep baby safe while sleeping.
  • Keep baby in a smoke-free environment.
  • Support breastfeeding and immunizations.

"The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) wants to educate all parents and caregivers about the importance of safe sleep. It can save your baby's life," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan's chief medical executive.

In the 10-year-period ending in 2019, Michigan lost 1,436 babies to sleep-related deaths, including 149 in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available.

"Safe sleep is always best," said Carole Hittinger of Ypsilanti, a mother of two who volunteers on the state's Infant Safe Sleep Action Committee and the Washtenaw County Safe Sleep Task Force. Her son, Jose Anthony, died at the age of 2 ½ months when he was entrapped in the blankets while co-sleeping.

"When you sleep with your child and you wake up the next morning and everyone's OK, that's you getting lucky," Hittinger said. "At some point your luck is going to run out. Things can go so bad."

In addition to following the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, MDHHS encourages parents to make sure their babies are sleeping in a safe product.

In the last few years, several infant products have been recalled because of infant deaths - inclined sleepers a few years ago and newborn lounger pillows just a few weeks ago.

To check for recalls, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov. Anyone can sign up to get emails when products are recalled. Parents and caregivers should stop using any product that has been recalled. They can use the checklist Is this Infant Safe Sleep? to determine if a product is safe for infant sleep.

Parents can make sure unsafe products get taken off the market by reporting them to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"Michigan babies have died in unsafe products," Bagdasarian said. "Just because a product is advertised and sold for infant use, that doesn't mean it's a safe place for infants to sleep. The Consumer Product Safety Commission can't identify hazardous products unless the public reports them. Anyone can report a concern, whether it's an injury, death, or a 'near miss.' It takes all of us to make sure babies are sleeping safely."

To learn more about infant safe sleep, visit Michigan.gov/SafeSleep or contact the Infant Safe Sleep Program at MDHHS-InfantSafeSleep@michigan.gov. To view data related to sleep-related infant deaths, visit Keepingkidsalive.org/publications. Report unsafe products at www.saferproducts.gov.

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