Guest Post: Preventing sleep-related deaths in Northeast Florida

Drs. Sara and Jason Largen are pediatricians in Jacksonville with Ascension St. Vincent’s and members of the Northeast Florida Safe Sleep Task Force. They have written a joint guest post for National Infant Mortality Awareness Month based on their experience with safe sleep education as a part of family medicine and preventing infant mortality due to Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDs).

Thirty-one. In 2018, 31 Jacksonville area infants did not live to their first birthday due to Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDs). SUIDs remains at an unacceptable level in Northeast Florida, with Duval County having over double the rate of the state and national averages. Many of these deaths were avoidable, but as providers, we face an uphill battle on educating the public.

The current recommendation for safe sleep practice starts with the ABC’s; Alone, on their Back, in an empty Crib or other acceptable sleep surface. Unfortunately, many parents and grandparents are not receiving adequate education prior to the birth of the baby. The traditional time for education is upon discharge from the hospital with a newborn, but this does not appear to be enough. Our nurses, both in the hospital and clinic, as well as our lactation specialists are great resources. Unfortunately, studies show that many parents are reporting they were given incorrect advice, if any at all. Education upon discharge may be too little too late as many parents are already fatigued and distracted by the birth of their newborn.

Ideally, as a health care community, we need to come together and provide a concise yet consistent education message, starting from the very first point of contact. There are many opportunities to educate parents and grandparents alike in the OB’s office, family medicine clinics and internists’ offices. We need other providers who traditionally do not have the obvious pediatric contact to begin helping with the education at multiple levels. If someone you are seeing, regardless of your specialty or role, reports having a newborn, a new grandchild, niece or nephew or one on the way, please take a moment to discuss the ABCs of safe sleep. Our babies depend on it.