Introduce your newborn to the ABCs immediately after birth. No, it’s not too soon. These are the ABCs of infant safety, to keep your newborn safe while s/he is sleeping. The ABCs of infant safety are for baby to sleep Alone, on his/her Back, in a Crib.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 3,500 infants in 2014 died suddenly and unexpectedly, and about 25 percent of those instances were due to accidental suffocation and strangulation while sleeping in an adult bed.  Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) refers to the inexplicable death of a child under one year old and usually occurs while they sleep.

Nationwide, African American instances of SUID are almost five times higher than instances of SUID in White (non-Hispanic) or Hispanic infants. In Alameda County, the rate of SUID is more than nine times higher in the African-American population than in all other races.

“Having a new baby at home is tiring and it is easy to fall asleep while breastfeeding or cuddling with your newborn,” said Donna White Carey M.D., interim chair, Department of Pediatrics at AHS-Highland Hospital. “We encourage parents to place their baby skin-to-skin as often as possible, but as soon as parents feel drowsy they should place their baby in his/her crib or a bedside sleeper.”

While there is no known way to completely prevent SUID there are some helpful tips to reduce your infant’s risk:

  • Always place baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night, to reduce the risk of SUID
  • Use a firm and flat sleep surface, such as a mattress in a safety-approved crib, with a fitted sheet and no other bedding or soft items in the sleep area
  • Share your room with baby. Keep baby in your room close to your bed but in a safe sleep environment designed for infants, ideally for baby’s first year, but at least for the first six months.
  • Do not put soft objects, stuffed animals, toys, crib bumpers, or loose bedding under baby, over baby, or anywhere in baby’s sleep area.

Here is what mom can do to reduce baby’s risk of SUID:

  • Always place baby on his/her back to go to sleep
  • Get regular prenatal care during pregnancy.
  • Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and using marijuana or illegal drugs during pregnancy or after the baby is born.
  • Once breastfeeding is strongly established, consider giving your baby a pacifier for naps and nighttime sleep to reduce the risk of SUID.
  • Do not let your baby get too hot during sleep. Your baby does not need extra blankets.
  • Do not allow your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa or cushioned chair

This month, the Highland Hospital Department of Pediatrics has initiated a “Safer Sleep Campaign” to increase awareness of how to model safe sleep while families are still in the hospital.  There are banners throughout the hospital highlighting the “ABCs” of safe sleep and each room in the hospital’s new Family Birthing Center is now equipped with a photo of a safe sleep environment with tips on safe sleep in three different languages: English, Spanish and Chinese. Providers and nursing staff are receiving updated education on SUID and new parents watch a video on safer sleep prior to their discharge home.

This is a joyful time for families and at Alameda Health System, we want new parents to enjoy bonding with their infant in the safest way possible. For more information about safe sleep and tips to help prevent SUID, go to