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Tennessee Department of Health strives to prevent Sleep-Related Infant Deaths


October is SIDS Awareness Month

Tennessee Department of HealthNashville, TN – October is SIDS Awareness Month in the United States. SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, occurs when an infant dies without explanation.

In 2010, eight infants in Tennessee died of SIDS. While cases of SIDS in Tennessee have declined over the past decade, other sleep-related deaths are on the rise.

SIDS is just one type of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, or SUID. Other causes can include sleep-related deaths such as suffocation or strangulation, infection or child abuse/neglect. Tennessee Department of Health data show there were 131 sleep-related deaths due to suffocation and strangulation in Tennessee in 2010, accounting for 20 percent of all infant deaths that year.

“These sleep-related deaths are entirely preventable and contribute significantly to our state’s infant mortality rate, which is higher than the national average,” said Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Tennessee’s infant mortality rate in 2011 decreased to 7.4 deaths for every 1,000 live births. While we celebrate our continued progress in reducing infant mortality, we mourn the lives of the 587 infants who did not live to see their first birthday. We can, and we must, do better.”

To help address all sleep-related infant deaths, TDH recently launched a Safe Sleep campaign focusing on the “ABCs of Safe Sleep.” This campaign urges all caregivers to focus on easy steps to help keep infants safe.

“Infants should sleep Alone, on their Backs and in a Crib,” said Michael Warren, MD, MPH, FAAP, TDH director of Family Health and Wellness. “Our Tennessee data show us that in 82 percent of these sleep-related deaths, the infant was found not sleeping in a crib or bassinette. In nearly 60 percent of cases, the infant was sleeping with another person. Taking a few moments to remember the ‘ABCs of Safe Sleep’ can help save a life.”

Parents and other caregivers can remember these key steps to reduce the likelihood of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths:

  • Always place babies on their backs to sleep, every time.
  • Sharing a room with your baby is okay, but sharing a bed is dangerous. Babies should sleep alone in their own crib or bassinette.
  • Use a firm mattress with a tight-fitting sheet in the baby’s crib. Keep stuffed animals, blankets, pillows, bumper pads and toys out of the crib.
  • Do not smoke during pregnancy or after your baby is born.
  • Be sure that all those who are caring for the baby know about safe sleep practices.

To learn more about the TDH Safe Sleep campaign, visit

The Tennessee Department of Health offers counseling and referral services for families who have experienced the loss of a child to SIDS. For more information, visit the department’s website at

About the Tennessee Department of Health

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit




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