On March 17, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law House Bill 1515 sponsored by Delegate David Bulova to require that hospitals and others providing maternity care give new parents information on safe sleep environments for newborns.

The legislation was a priority recommendation of the State Child Fatality Review Team. The review team was established by the General Assembly to investigate fatalities involving children and to make recommendations for preventing fatalities.

According to a 2014 report by the review team: “In 2009, 119 infants less than one year of age died unexpectedly in a sleep environment in Virginia, approximately one infant every three days. After natural disease, sleep-related death is the leading cause of infant death in Virginia, a loss of life nearly 10 times the number of infants who died as a result of abusive head trauma and almost 30 times the number of infants who died in motor vehicle collisions….The team concluded that 95% of these deaths were preventable. Nine out of ten, 90%, were related to an unsafe sleeping environment.”

House Bill 1515 was supported by the Medical Society of Virginia, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Council of Nurse Mid-Wives, and INOVA Health System.

“We are so pleased that HB 1515 passed the General Assembly,” says Dr Barbara Kahler, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Virginia Chapter, in a release. “We know what a difference it made when AAP recommended babies sleep on their backs. Deaths from SIDS dropped dramatically. But what we still struggle with is infant deaths from other unsafe sleeping conditions such as suffocation, entrapment, and asphyxia. Awareness and education for new parents is the key to reducing these unnecessary deaths.”

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Virginia Chapter, released this statement: “ACOG-Virginia commends and thanks Del. Bulova’s efforts to help educate parents about safe sleeping environments for newborns. OBGYNs across Virginia are committed to helping our patients prepare for the birth of their babies, and appreciate and join the team effort to arm families with the information they need to care for and protect infants.”

Inova Health System released this statement: “Inova Health System, with over 20,000 births per year, believes strongly in equipping new parents and families with information in the care of their newborn. We appreciate Delegate Bulova’s leadership in ensuring that education about creating a safe sleep environment is now a requirement throughout the Commonwealth.”

Bulova says, “As the father of three wonderful children, I wish I had this information as a new parent leaving the hospital. One unnecessary death due to lack of information is too much. I am very grateful to the organizations that worked with me to get this bill passed, and to the Governor for signing the legislation into law.”