New data shows more infants in New York hospitals are being placed in safe sleep environments and that nearly all parents are receiving safe sleep education, according to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH).

The ABCs of safe sleep are: baby sleeping Alone, on his or her Back and in a Crib, uncluttered by blankets, bumpers or stuffed animals. The improvements are the results of a safe sleep campaign by the New York State Perinatal Quality Collaborative (NYSPQC), a NYSDOH initiative involving 80 hospitals across the state that aims to provide the best and safest care for women and infants in New York.

As of July 2016, participating hospitals reported that 87% of infants were placed in safe sleep environments during the hospital stay. In addition, 96% of patients had documentation they received safe sleep education, and 85% of caregivers reported they understand safe sleep practices.

The campaign, which began in 2015, engages all areas of the hospitals where newborns spend time, including the neonatal intensive care units, the well-baby nursery, and step down units. The goal is to increase the percentage of infants placed in safe sleep environments during hospital stays; increase the documentation of safe sleep education for caregivers before babies are discharged; and increase the percentage of caregivers who report they understand the safe sleep educational messages before leaving the hospital. The NYSDOH is also working with community-based organizations across the state to ensure that infant caregivers are given information about safe sleep once they are discharged home.

“Together with the Office of Children and Family Services, the Department of Health has made a comprehensive effort to address the issue of safe sleep for infants, and the data shows it’s working,” says Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker in a release. “We must continue to pursue these efforts, so that no parents have to suffer the tragic loss of a healthy baby due to unsafe sleep practices.”

“Too many healthy babies in New York are dying as a result of unsafe sleeping arrangements by their parents or caregivers. The deaths are preventable by following a few simple rules for safe sleeping” says Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “No matter how exhausted new parents are, it is imperative that they always follow the ABCs of safe sleep and keep their infants nearby, but not in their bed. It is critical that all caregivers including parents, grandparents, child care providers, and babysitters follow this practice and keep babies safe.”

Adding to this momentum, in July 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation that will now require all hospitals and birth centers to give new parents information about safe sleep. Safe Sleep brochures, mirror clings, magnets, and crib cards in English and Spanish were sent to all birthing centers for parents as they prepared to take their babies home.

Unsafe sleep practices cause more than 90 deaths in infants less than one year of age each year in New York State.

The incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has fallen dramatically since 1992, when the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending that all babies sleep on their backs. But sleep-related deaths from other causes have gone up. These causes include suffocation, entrapment, and asphyxia. Unsafe sleep remains the leading preventable cause of death for healthy infants.

Unsafe sleep practices include placing babies to sleep on their tummies or sides or in unsafe locations such as adult beds, baby slings, car seats, couches, or armchairs. It is also unsafe to sleep with pets, other children or adults, or to have blankets, other bedding, crib bumpers, or stuffed toys in the sleep environment.

As part of its involvement in the national Infant Mortality Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (IM-CoIIN), NYSDOH has chosen to focus on improving statewide infant safe sleep practices to reduce infant mortality.

The NYSDOH has also convened a multidisciplinary work group on safe sleep that includes staff from the NYS Office of Children and Family Services, NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Healthcare Association of New York State, Greater New York Hospital Association, clinical representatives from both obstetrics and neonatology, and various local departments of social services and community-based organizations.