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Hospital Launches Infant Sleep Safety Initiative – “The PIERCE Project”

Middletown, Ohio, April 4, 2012 - Each year in this country, more than 4,600 babies die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sudden unexpected infant sleep-related deaths, such as accidental suffocation, strangulation and entrapment. SIDS remains the leading killer of infants under one year of age, with the majority of these deaths occurring between the ages of two and four months. The heartbreaking reality is that many of these deaths could be prevented by increased awareness, education and an understanding of simple steps parents and others can take to reduce the risk of this silent killer.

In an effort to reduce SIDS and deaths from other unexpected sleep-related causes, Atrium Medical Center recently launched the PIERCE Project, which stands for Protecting Infants Early Reduces Catastrophic Events. The goal of this project is to reduce the risks of sudden infant death by providing consistent, accurate information to healthcare professionals, childcare providers, families and others involved in the care of infants.

“Because we saw an uptick in sudden unexpected infant deaths – 4 deaths in 2½ months – we knew we had to do something to reverse that trend by aggressively promoting safe sleep practices,” says Saundra Pearce, nursing director at Atrium Medical Center. “So we assembled a team made up of pediatricians, educators and other health professionals, plus representatives from the City of Middletown Health Department and the SIDS Network of Ohio. We also included a parent who’d lost a baby to sudden unexpected infant death,” she adds.

“We do a lot of bereavement support and counseling with families who’ve lost a child through Atrium’s HEAL (Help Endure a Loss) program,” says Sheree Young, RNC, coordinator for the program, “and we identified a tremendous need to be more proactive in preventing sudden infant death rather than providing bereavement support after.”

Atrium began with intensive staff training to make sure everybody had consistent, accurate information on safe infant sleep practices. In early March, Atrium hosted one of three state-wide training workshops for healthcare workers, childcare professionals and social workers in cooperation with the SIDS Network of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Health, and it is providing educational sessions and materials to physician offices, health departments, childcare providers and daycare centers.

Experts agree there is no guaranteed way to prevent SIDS entirely, but risk of sudden unexpected infant death can be greatly reduced by following the guidelines below from the American Academy of Pediatricians:

  • Always place the baby on his or her back for every sleep period.
  • Always use a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved crib mattress.
  • Keep baby’s sleep area close to, but separate from, where others sleep – room-sharing, never bed-sharing!
  • Keep all soft items, such as pillows and bumper pads, away from the baby’s sleep area.
  • Use a wearable “sleep sack” instead of a loose blanket to keep the baby warm during sleep.
  • Avoid overheating the baby during sleep.
  • Offer the baby a pacifier at naptime and bedtime.
  • Do not allow smoking around the baby.
  • Avoid alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth.
  • Make sure the baby gets all recommended immunizations.
  • Breastfeeding is recommended as a strategy for reducing SIDS risk.

“More than 65 percent of sudden infant deaths occur in locations other than the child’s home or with caregivers other than a parent,” says Young. “So it’s very important to make sure that everyone who cares for your baby, including grandparents and sitters, knows about these important rules and follows them!”

For more information on SIDS and related sudden unexpected infant death, visit To schedule a presentation on infant sleep safety for your women’s group or other community organizations, call (513) 705-4056.