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Middlesex District Attorney Launches 2016-2017 Infant Safe Sleep Awareness Campaign With Winchester Hospital And Safe Babies, Safe Kids Task Force

Dec 17, 2016 06:21AM ● By Theresa Gilman

Left to right: Donna Sherrill, Director of Maternal Child Health at Winchester Hospital; Lowell Fire Chief Jeffrey Winward; District Attorney Marian Ryan; State Representative Michael Day; Kathy Schuler, Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer at Winchester Hospital; and Paul Andrews, Chair, Winchester Hospital Board of Directors

(Editor's Note: this content was provided by the office of Middlesex DA Marian Ryan.) 

WINCHESTER - Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, Winchester Hospital and the Middlesex Safe Babies, Safe Kids Task Force today launched a county-wide Safe Sleep Awareness Campaign to reduce Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID). The announcement coincides with the drop in temperature during the winter months when risk factors for unsafe sleep, such as having blankets in the crib, increase. 

In 2014, there were 29 instances of SUID in Massachusetts according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. This campaign aims to raise public awareness about the risks associated with unsafe sleep practices and to provide critically important educational information to stakeholders, parents and members of the community. New this year, educational materials will be available in both English and Spanish.

“Sudden Unexpected Infant Death is the leading cause of deaths among babies in their first year of life. Unsafe sleep and suffocation are significant factors in infant deaths nationwide, yet we know in these cases the deaths are preventable,” said District Attorney Ryan. “Starting today we will be launching a series of county-wide prevention efforts to raise awareness about known risk factors of SUIDs with the goal of preventing future cases of avoidable infant deaths.” 

Additionally, at today’s event, Winchester Hospital announced the roll out of their new program to provide safe sleep sacks to all infants born at the hospital. These sacks will allow newborns to sleep more safely as it eliminates the need for blankets and other excess bedding to be in the crib.    

“The District Attorney’s Safe Sleep Campaign is an important step towards informing parents about safe sleep practices,” said Kathy Schuler, CNO and VP of Patient Care Services at Winchester Hospital. “We are dedicated to providing parents a warm, comfortable family-centered environment for the birth of their baby, and educating parents on safe sleep practices is a vital step in accomplishing this goal. 

To decrease the chances of SUID, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:

  • Placing an infant for sleep on his/her back until the age of 1;
  • Placing the baby on a firm sleep surface covered by a tight-fitted sheet;
  • Keeping soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib, such as pillows, blankets, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, toys, stuffed animals and bumper pads;
  • Having the infant’s crib, portable crib, play yard, or bassinet in the parents’ bedroom close to the parents’ bed for the first year;
  • Room-sharing is recommended, but bed- sharing is not advised because it can result in suffocation, strangulation and entrapment;
  • Preventing overheating by not overdressing infants; 
  • Avoiding smoking during and after pregnancy, and exposing a baby to second-hand smoke.

Today’s launch was attended by first responders and community partners from the fields of law enforcement, healthcare, social services and child welfare to ensure the message about Safe Sleep is being shared broadly across the county.

Speakers included Kathy Schuler, Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer at Winchester Hospital, State Representative Michael Day, Donna Sherrill, Director of Maternal Child Health at Winchester Hospital and Lowell Fire Chief Jeffrey Winward.

This event marks the beginning of a series of county-wide risk reduction initiatives led by District Attorney Ryan and the Safe Babies, Safe Kids Task Force. This effort will include outreach to OB/Gyn and pediatric offices; educational materials for parents and caregivers; parent workshops for expectant and new parents on sleep safety; a smartphone app that promotes safe sleep tips; education and outreach to domestic violence shelters; training for police, fire and EMS and a cable access show that will made available to stations across Middlesex County. 

This year’s campaign will also focus on specialized education and outreach for individuals battling a substance use disorder and their families.  This will include raising awareness about Safe Sleep with grandparents, 34,000 of whom are raising grandchildren in Massachusetts, with about 80 percent of those cases due to opioid use or the opioid-related death of a son or daughter.  Research shows an association between SUIDs and maternal substance use during pregnancy.

The Middlesex District Attorney’s State Police CPAC Unit responds to, and investigates, all unattended deaths in Middlesex County, including those involving infants.  Over the last five years, the Middlesex Child Fatality Review Team, led by District Attorney Ryan, has reviewed 20 cases of infant deaths that occurred while sleeping. 

In Middlesex County alone there are approximately 85,000 residents under the age of five.  District Attorney Ryan created the SBSK Task Force in 2009 as a multi-disciplinary, cross-sector partnership to address issues of health and safety affecting babies and children across the county.  SBSK partners include:  Winchester Hospital; Melrose-Wakefield Hospital; Mount Auburn Hospital; Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Lowell General Hospital; Emerson Hospital; Newton-Wellesley Hospital; Holy Family Hospital; Tufts Medical Center; Metro West Free Medical Program; the Massachusetts Medical Society; the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families; the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Children’s Trust; and the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  

To learn more about the Middlesex Safe Babies, Safe Kids Task Force (SBSK) and to download educational materials, please visit

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