February 20, 2004
HONOLULU – The Safe Sleep Hawai`i committee is addressing
a serious problem in Hawai`i: healthy infants dying unexpectedly
because of unsafe sleep practices. Currently sleep related injuries
are by far the leading cause of injury-related deaths among infants in
Hawaii, and the 3rthirdd leading cause of death overall. The Safe Sleep
committee wants to urge caretakers to place infants on their backs
while sleeping and warn them that there are other factors present that
make the sleep environment unsafe.
In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a recommendation
that infants sleep on their backs to prevent sleep related deaths. Soon
after, the "Back to Sleep" public awareness campaign was launched
nationally and the number of sleep related infants deaths in Hawaii
dropped dramatically. Since then, the number of sleep-related deaths
went from 26 in 1992 to an average of 10 in recent years. However,
these deaths continue to be a significant problem. The Safe Sleep
Hawai`i committee maintains that even one infant death is too many.
Sleeping on the stomach is a significant risk factor of a
multifaceted problem that has been linked to otherwise healthy infants
dying unexpectedly. Continuing studies have uncovered other sleep
practices that present risks. These include:
- Mother’s smoking
- Overheating of infant
- Use of soft beddings, comforters, pillows, plush toys in sleep
- Old cribs and playpens that do not meet safety standards
The "Back to Sleep" messages are:
- Always place your baby on his back to sleep, even for naps, even if
you are right next to baby.
- Make sure your crib has a firm, tight fitting mattress and meets
current safety standards.
- Do not allow pillows or any other soft bedding or toys in your
baby’s sleep area.
- Make sure your baby’s head and face is never covered.
- Do not allow smoking around your baby.
- Do not let your baby get too warm during sleep.
- Share these messages with all who care for your baby.
It is imperative that we disseminate these messages as soon as
possible. We need to educate everyone about the importance of providing
infants with safe sleeping environments to prevent unnecessary deaths
The Safe Sleep Hawaii committee is comprised of many public agencies
and community organizations that provide services to families with
infants and young children. Through these collaborative efforts, the
committee has developed a "Back to Sleep" handout that is available on
line at the Keiki Injury Prevention Coalition web site at www.kipchawaii.org and in
printed form from the Department of Health at (808)
For more information,
Injury Prevention Epidemiologist
Department of Health
Phone: (808) 586-5943
Department of Health
Phone: (808) 586-4442