CPSC, Gerber, BPHC, BET Launch Campaign to Lower African- American SIDS Rates: New Survey Finds African-Americans less likely to place babies to sleep on their backs; SIDS rates twice as high as other groups

December 14, 2010
Release Number: 00144

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Gerber Products Co. today released a new national survey showing that African-Americans are more likely to place their babies to sleep in ways that increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The survey found that more than half of African-American parents place their babies to sleep on their stomachs or sides and African-Americans are more likely to place soft bedding such as quilts, comforters or pillows in the crib with their infants. National infant mortality statistics show that African-American babies are twice as likely to die from SIDS as other babies.

Today, CPSC and Gerber, in conjunction with the Health Resources and Services Administration's Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC), and Black Entertainment Television (BET) are launching a national "Safe Sleep" campaign to help lower SIDS rates, especially among African- Americans. The campaign includes a television public service announcement about placing babies to sleep safely that will air nationwide, baby safety showers to be held at community and migrant health centers, and special programming to be televised on BET this fall. The BPHC, which is the lead Department of Health and Human Services' agency in providing access to primary and preventive health care to vulnerable and low-income populations, will be distributing safe sleeping information to health centers across the country. The BPHC is encouraging health centers to hold baby safety showers which will include information about reducing the risk of SIDS.

The national survey released today was commissioned to find out how parents place their babies to sleep, what information they know about safe sleeping practices, and where they get that information.

The survey found that only 31% of African-American parents place their babies to sleep on their backs as recommended by CPSC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

While almost half of Caucasians say they get information about sleep position from their physician or a nurse, African-Americans say they tend to get such information more from family members such as a grandmother. The survey found that 47% of Caucasian parents and 43% of parents overall put their babies to sleep on their backs.

Studies have shown that soft bedding such as quilts, comforters or pillows may also increase the risk of SIDS deaths from suffocation. As many as one-third of the babies who die from SIDS each year may have suffocated in soft, fluffy bedding. Suffocation can occur when soft bedding becomes molded around a baby's face.

The survey pointed to the need to get more information about the risks of soft bedding to all new parents. The survey found that 85% of African-American parents say they keep quilts and comforters in their baby's crib. Among all parents, 67% say they keep these products in the crib.

The "Safe Sleep" campaign is part of a ten year national effort to reduce SIDS rates among all groups. Since the early 1990s, the rate of SIDS deaths in the United States has dropped by about 40%.

"A great deal of progress has been made reducing SIDS deaths," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown, "but this survey shows there's much more work that needs to be done. We need to continue to get the word out to all parents, but the survey shows there's an information gap that needs to be addressed. We need to target information to parents where SIDS rates continue to be very high."

Gerber funded the survey and the printing of thousands of CPSC's Baby Safety Shower kits for distribution to health centers nationwide. "Helping parents raise happy, healthy babies has been an essential part of Gerber's heritage for more than 70 years," said Frank Palantoni, Worldwide CEO of Gerber Products Company. "We're proud to partner with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in this important effort to save lives."

The Bureau of Primary Health Care will take the lead in providing safe sleeping information to clients in 3,000 health centers across the country. Two-thirds of the more than 12 million patients served at BPHC- supported health centers each year are people of color. The BPHC will also coordinate sharing the "Safe Sleep" materials with state and local health departments.

"We are pleased to add our efforts to that of CPSC to assure that all parents, but especially African-American parents, place their infants on their backs to sleep to prevent SIDS," said Marilyn Hughes Gaston, M.D., Assistant Surgeon General and Associate Administrator for the BPHC. "Health centers are the ideal messengers to bring 'Safe Sleep' information to new parents and infant caretakers, because of their community based, culturally competent approach to health care."

BET, which reaches 60 million households, will run the public service announcement and weave messages about safe sleeping into its programming. Starting with the new television season in September, BET will develop news stories about SIDS and its impact on African-American communities. It will also include information targeted to new mothers on its health and fitness program, "Heart and Soul."

"BET has long been a source of news and information vital to the African-Amercian community," said Debra Lee, President and COO of BET. "Joining the CPSC and Gerber in this campaign is further fulfillment of that duty. This information is important for all parents to know."

The CPSC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institute of Child Health and Development recommend the following steps to ensure babies under 12 months sleep safely:

- Place baby on his/her back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib meeting current safety standards.

- Remove pillows, quilts, comforters and sheepskins from the crib.

- Consider using a sleeper as an alternative to blankets with no other covering.

- If using a blanket, place baby in crib with his/her feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, only as far as the baby's chest.

- Make sure the baby's head remains uncovered during sleep.

- Never place a baby to sleep on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow or other soft surface.

You can get more information on crib safety and preventing SIDS here, or by contacting CPSC at (800) 638-CPSC.

The survey was conducted by Caravan® Opinion Research Corporation International. Telephone interviews were conducted among a national probability sample of 5,078 adults comprising 2,542 men and 2,536 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States. Interviewing for the survey was conducted among 460 parents of children under the age of three during the period of March 23-April 16, 2000. All participants were contacted via random digit dialing to ensure a representative sample of parents nationwide. The margin of error for this sample is ± 5 percent.