As part of its ongoing effort to reduce sleep-related infant fatalities throughout the Commonwealth, the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) has kicked off a statewide safe sleep campaign and call-to-action pledge, Safe Sleep 365. The campaign, which coincides with National Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Month in September and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month in October, is designed to educate parents, families and caregivers regarding the steps they can take to prevent sleep-related death in infants.
In Virginia, sleep-related death is the leading cause of non-natural death for infants up to one year of age. In 2016, nearly half of all child fatalities in Virginia, unrelated to abuse or neglect, of infants up to one year of age, were related to unsafe sleep practices. These fatalities were either the result of an unsafe sleep surface, co-sleeping, or how the child was placed to sleep. Many of the sleep-related infant deaths were determined, by a medical examiner, to have been the result of Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID), a diagnosis that recognizes a host of confounding factors, most importantly, the presence of unsafe sleep practices.
The Safe Sleep 365 campaign includes multi-layered mediums to educate parents and caregivers on the risk factors associated with SUIDS as well as safe sleep practices that promote placing infants ALONE in a firm crib/bassinet or other safe sleep space, APART from people, toys, blankets, pillows or other items, and ALWAYS on his/her back in a drug- and alcohol- free environment.