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Safe sleep messages expand to reduce infant deaths

By Lynda Jones, Editor

Bevan Baker, City of Milwaukee Commissioner of Health and Mayor Tom Barrett announced a new aggressive ad campaign last week addressing safe sleep and the prevention of infant deaths. (Photo by SERVE Marketing)

Mayor Tom Barrett and Commissioner of Health Bevan K. Baker unveiled additional hard-hitting safe sleep campaign messages aimed to prevent further infant deaths in Milwaukee. After two reports last week of infants who died after sleeping in an unsafe sleep environment, Barrett and Baker held a news conference to announce the campaign.

“As a mayor and parent, I am sick to of hearing about another infant death, especially preventable deaths. No adult should sleep in bed with an infant.” Barrett stated.

This year alone in Milwaukee there have been at least eight infant deaths associated with an unsafe sleep environment. The leading cause of infant mortality in the U.S. is primarily due to complications of prematurity. In Milwaukee, the second leading cause is SIDS, which is often related to unsafe sleep. The majority of babies who died of SIDS-related causes in Milwaukee were in an unsafe sleep situation.

“This is everyone’s issue, and we need to pull together to protect our little ones and keep our residents safe and healthy. It is clear that we as a community need to take steps to address unsafe sleep practices in our community.” Barrett said.

Baker added, “Our hearts go out to these families, losing a baby is the worst thing that can happen to anyone, and they will carry this grief far into the future. We need parents to understand the possible consequences of their choices. The safest place for a baby to sleep is by him or herself, in a crib-not in an adult bed.”

Baker also added that if a parent needs help in getting a crib, there are free cribs available. The City of Milwaukee Health Department became an official Cribs for Kids® site in May 2009. The Cribs for Kids® program provides Milwaukee families with Pack ‘n Plays® to help reduce deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and unsafe sleep. Pack ‘n Plays® are provided to families who are unable to purchase one and who are referred by a community professional such as a case worker or nurse.

Pack ‘n Plays® are used because they are portable and can be taken wherever the baby needs to be cared for. Before a family is given a Pack ‘n Play®, Cribs for Kids® provides education and training on proper sleep position and sleep environment for the baby.

For the new campaign, the City of Milwaukee Health Department partnered again with SERVE Marketing to develop radio and television ads to remind residents that the safest place for a baby to sleep is in their own crib or bassinet, on their backs, with no pillows, bumper pads, blankets, or toys.

Similar to the tombstone headboard launched last December, this campaign was designed to be provocative and to serve as a wake-up call to the community that Milwaukee has a serious problem with babies sleeping unsafely and dying unnecessarily.

One 60 second spot that you will hear reads like this: ‘The average adult weighs roughly 20 times as much as a newborn baby. That’s about the difference between your weight and the weight of an SUV. So, if you think it’s all right to sleep in the same bed with your baby, try this: Go outside and lie on the ground. Then have 5 or 6 of your friends roll an SUV on top of you. If you’re somehow able to survive being pinned down and crushed by an immovable object, you’d probably agree, while lying in a hospital bed on life support, that it’s never a good idea to sleep with a baby. And if you were smart enough to not even try this little experiment, then maybe you could already imagine how a baby feels as it’s being crushed or suffocated by a sleeping adult. So if you love that little baby, you should know there’s no safer place then a crib. It’s the best way to prevent a rollover accident. Not to mention, a funeral. This message brought to you by the Milwaukee Health Department.’

For more information in safe sleep or information on getting a free crib contact the City of Milwaukee Health Department at 414-286-8620 or visit