by Cherie Sage, State Director, Safe Kids Kansas

Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) is the term used to describe all sudden infant deaths before their first birthday when the cause is not obvious. Many of these deaths occur during sleep or in the baby’s sleep environment. SUID accounted for nearly 20 percent of infant deaths in Kansas from 2013 through 2017. We also know that over half of sleep-related infant deaths during that time period occurred in an adult bed. Additional deaths occurred in environments other than a crib, such as a couch or chair. That is why it is important to educate families about the ABCs of Safe Sleep.

The ABCs of safe sleep are simple. Babies should always be placed to sleep Alone, positioned on their Back and in a clutter-free Crib. The safest place for baby is in the same room as the parents, but in a separate bed to prevent accidental suffocation.

Through a partnership with Safe Kids Kansas, the KIDS Network, hospitals, health departments and state agencies, at-risk families are provided safe sleep education, a hands-on demonstration of a safe sleep environment, and a portable crib for low-income families to prevent these deaths.

Through a network of 110 Safe Sleep Instructors (SSIs) across the state hosting community baby showers and crib clinics, expectant and new mothers and caregivers receive safe sleep education and resources to help prevent sleeprelated deaths. The SSI program and Safe Sleep Star Clinic designation is unique to Kansas. SSIs commit to promoting safe sleep through standardized training of community educators and community outreach. Due to COVID-19, this past year our SSIs found creative ways to safely reach 424 individuals both virtually and through one-on-one interactions. The SSI program continues to be embraced by agencies and partners in maternal and child health, child welfare and safety and is on-track to be considered an evidencebased practice.

The 2020 COF Barclay-Giel Seed Grant provided funding to the program to purchase 93 portable cribs and 150 sleep sacks to low-income families across Kansas. In addition, the funding supported educational magnets, crib cards and postcards that were provided to hospitals and health agencies. Program participants were evaluated and demonstrated a significant increase in their understanding and intention to follow safe sleep recommendations. They also stated they would share that knowledge with others who care for their baby. We are grateful for this support to help address the leading cause of death for Kansas babies.

Additional partners in these efforts include the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the Kansas Hospital Association, Child Care Aware, obstetric offices, Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the CRIBS center (Center for Research for Infant Birth and Survival) through the University of Kansas School of Medicine, Wichita.

Portable cribs and sleep sacks for low-income families in Kansas. Funding was provided by the COF Barclay-Giel Seed Grant program.

Portable cribs and sleep sacks for low-income families in Kansas. Funding was provided by the COF Barclay-Giel Seed Grant program.