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Fremont Health Achieves Safe Sleep Champion Status

Fremont Health Medical Center is pleased to announce it has earned “Safe Sleep Champion” designation from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), as part of its initiative to reduce infant deaths in Nebraska. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths are the leading cause of death in babies in their first year.

About SIDS and Sleep-Related Death

During the 1970s and 80s, it was generally believed that babies should be put down to sleep on their stomachs, a practice most parents adopted. But in 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics identified prone sleeping as a major risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and a major campaign called “Back to Sleep” was launched in 1994 to increase public awareness. That change resulted in an incredible 50 percent decrease in sudden infant deaths across the United States.

Yet, nearly 25 year later, SIDS remains the leading cause of death in infants between 1 month and 1 year of age. And in Nebraska, infant deaths are slowly on the rise, according to the Nebraska DHHS. In 2015, 26 babies were listed as Sudden Unexplained Infant Deaths (SUID), up from 22 SUID deaths in 2012. Almost all of these are preventable.

Babies are at an increased risk of SIDS and other sleep-related death if they sleep:

  • on their stomachs
  • on soft surfaces, such as an adult mattress, couch, or chair
  • on or under soft or loose bedding, such as thick blankets, quilts, pillows and stuffed animals
  • in a bed with a parent.

Nebraska Safe Sleep Hospital Campaign

In response to the increase in infant deaths in Nebraska, the Nebraska DHHS worked with the Nebraska Hospital Association, the Nebraska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Nebraska Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative to launch the Nebraska Safe Sleep Hospital Campaign. The campaign provides evidence-based education and training to parents of newborns as well as birthing hospital staff.

“Providing consistent training and education on safe sleep for all hospital personnel caring for children under a year old ensures the same safe sleep message is shared with the parents of more than 26,000 babies born in Nebraska every year,” said Dr. Tom Williams, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “An increase in safe sleep awareness will result in more babies sleeping in safe environments and reaching their first birthday.”

“Nurses are in a unique position to educate parents and caregivers about risk reduction of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death,” said Melissa Heavican, RN, nurse leader at Fremont Health Medical Center. “Our goal is to make sure every family knows these recommendations – babies should sleep on their backs, without any toys or soft bedding, and in their own crib.”

Research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) shows that advice from healthcare providers makes a difference in parent and caregiver decisions about sleep position and sleep environment.

“Our labor and delivery nurses are a key resource for new parents, and for those few days they are in the hospital, it’s important we are giving them the tools and education they need to raise a happy, healthy baby,” said Melinda Kentfield, Director of Acute Care Nursing and Behavioral Health at Fremont Health Medical Center.

A gift bag for new parents at Fremont Health also includes a HALO® SleepSack® Swaddle. Swaddling replaces loose blankets for safer sleep, and is a technique that can help calm fussy or crying babies and even help them sleep longer their first few months of life.

“It’s important that we are not only telling them what they should do at home, but demonstrating those behaviors while they are here at the hospital,” added Heavican. “We really want to do everything we can to ensure our moms and babies get off to the best start.”

For more information about safe sleep, visit