For more than a decade, my organization, Keeping Babies Safe (KBS), has sounded the steady drumbeat of safe sleep awareness, which in turn has created bans on dangerous products and has helped enact laws that work to ensure babies are sleeping safely.

In 2018, KBS kicked off its latest awareness campaign designed to promote safe sleep practices and products for babies. The campaign will culminate in the third-annual National KBS Day on Wednesday, May 2, in which KBS staff, volunteers, sponsors and donors will honor those committed to safe sleep education.

It has been a difficult year, as hurricanes in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico have destroyed tens of thousands of homes. In the aftermath, thousands of cribs were thrown to the curb, and many families were left with no safe place for their babies to sleep.

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KBS was overrun with phone calls and emails, as our “Project Safe Crib” provides safe cribs and safe sleep education to parents. It is a program in which trained experts visit families at their homes, set up free cribs and provide the latest information about how infants should be placed for sleep. To date, more than 9,000 cribs have been provided.

As a non-profit funded solely on donations and grants, we just did not have the capacity to accommodate even a tenth of the demand. And we were shocked and disappointed to learn that there were no similar programs where we could refer desperate families and case workers.

On this KBS Day, we want to raise awareness to the fact that dozens of babies continue to die every year because of dangerous sleep environments, while tens of thousands sustain injuries requiring emergency care,

In fact, the 2017 annual report from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports 62,300 injuries from nursery products in 2016. Injuries from cribs and mattresses increased from 10,600 in 2015 to 11,300 in 2016.

From 2012-2014, there were 284 infant deaths, with 38 percent from cribs/mattresses associated with a cluttered sleep environment, the CPSC reports. Meanwhile, 17 percent of the deaths were due to infant suffocation on a blanket, pillow or soft bedding inside the play yard.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in New Jersey and nationally have not yet banned the sale of supplemental baby mattresses, which are a known suffocation hazard. Too many babies have lost their lives when these mattresses are placed in soft-sided play yards. The baby’s head can easily get stuck between the mattress and the mesh side of the play yard. A bill to ban these mattresses passed through the state Legislature last year without one “no” vote, only to be pocket vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie.

We hope that 2018 is the year this legislation is finally passed.

KBS Day is held intentionally on the same day as National Baby Day. KBS is underscoring the fact that newborns can spend up to 18 hours a day in a crib. Parents and other caregivers need to know the latest safe sleep practices to protect them.  

There are many ways in which you can mark KBS Day. Most importantly, use this time to spread life-saving information:

  1. The safest place for your baby to sleep is in his/her own crib.

  2. All cribs must meet new 2012 crib safety standards. Drop-side cribs are banned.

  3. Check the crib regularly for loose or missing parts. Use only manufacturers’ recommended parts.

  4. Remove all soft items from crib including traditional crib bumpers, pillows, blankets, comforters and toys.

  5. Never add a supplemental mattress to a mesh-sided play yard. Use only the mattress/pad that comes with your crib/bassinet/play yard. Bare is best!

  6. Always place your any to sleep on his/her back.

Arming new parents with the best safe sleep advice will actually help make other legislation – both state and federal – more effective.  Today, second-hand stores and consignment shops continue to grow, particularly in low-income areas of the state, with many inadequate cribs and supplemental mattresses available for easy purchase.

Recent federal legislation makes it illegal to sell unsafe cribs that don’t meet federal standards. This legislation speaks to the sellers of this merchandise.  But our focus is the users of the crib – the new parents. 

By informing new parents of what is safe and what is not, we are providing parents with critical information so that they can make knowledgeable decisions about where and how to put their baby to sleep. 

To learn more about the work of KBS, to participate in the May 2 celebration or how you can celebrate “Keeping Babies Safe Day” in your community, please visit www.keepingbabiessafe.org.