News & Events
Dhs And Health Department Launch New Campaign Warning To Parents
PHILADELPHIA, PA   --Bringing a newborn child into an adult bed to sleep with mom and dad – a practice known as co-sleeping - may seem like a natural, nurturing act.  Likewise, laying a baby down on a cushy sofa or a crib full of fluffy stuffed animals may seem entirely safe and appropriate.  But for far too many Philadelphia families, these seemingly safe sleeping environments for their newborn babies have become beds of sorrow. 

From January 2006 through August of this year in Philadelphia, 43 infants have died in unsafe sleeping environments, defined as the baby co-sleeping with an adult or older sibling, being placed on an unsafe sleeping surface (sofas, cushioned chairs, or cluttered cribs), or sleeping in the presence of tobacco smoke.  Over the past 18 months, more Philadelphia infants have died in unsafe sleeping environments than have died from physical abuse over that same time span.

“These tragedies can be prevented through education and common sense parenting,” said Dr. Arthur C. Evans, Jr., Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS), in a morning press conference today at City Hall. “Communicating this important public safety message is a challenge, however, because parents bring their infant children into their beds with only good intentions - to breast feed, comfort the baby, provide warmth and human contact, or help the baby fall to sleep.  Many parents can’t fathom that they could literally be putting their babies in harm’s way.  But that’s exactly what they’re doing when they sleep with their infant child in an adult bed or place the child in an unsafe sleeping environment.”

Whatever perceived benefits may accompany co-sleeping pale in comparison to the very real and significant risks involved. Sleeping adults or older siblings can inadvertently roll over onto the infant, causing death by suffocation (a phenomenon known as “overlaying”).  The other risks involved in co-sleeping include the infant getting trapped in the bedding, getting wedged between the bed and wall, or being knocked off the bed altogether.

In keeping with Mayor Street’s mandate that the health and safety of the city’s children be accorded priority status, DHS and the Department of Public Health are re-launching a major public awareness media campaign that first aired in fall 2004 to continue to educate parents and caregivers on the dangers of co-sleeping and unsafe sleeping environments for infants.

A television, radio and print advertising campaign will begin running today in numerous media outlets. The message to parents is simple and direct:

For you to rest easy, your baby must rest alone

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) firmly states that the safest way of putting babies to sleep is to place them on their backs - never on their fronts or sides - in their own uncluttered cribs.  Since 1992, when the AAP first recommended that babies be put to sleep on their backs, the rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the United States have declined.  The AAP’s recommendations resulted from the discovery that babies sleeping on their stomachs are more likely to die from SIDS.  The respected journal Pediatrics also found that children who share a bed with parents or siblings are at a higher risk of SIDS than are other infants. 

“In both the AAP and Pediatrics studies,” Dr. Evans continued, “the recommendation is clear – babies belong in their own crib, never in a co-sleeping environment in an adult bed.  Our message is clear: don’t do it.  Parents must also understand that babies should not be laid down to sleep on unsafe surfaces, such as sofas or cribs cluttered with blankets and stuffed animals.  These environments pose real dangers for babies.  And infants must not be subjected to tobacco smoke under any circumstances.  The dangers of secondhand smoke - especially with babies – are all too real.”

There are other safe sleeping tips that parents should be aware of to ensure the health of their infant children:

  • An infant’s crib mattress should be firm, flat and clean
  • Infants should not get too warm during sleep
  • It is best to use a lightweight blanket in the crib, tucked over the baby’s lower torso, as opposed to loose quilts or sheets in which the baby could get tangled or be accidentally suffocated
  • Similarly, parents should not place pillows, loose bumpers or stuffed animals in the infant’s crib during sleep time


DHS and the Health Department acknowledge that, for many families, co-sleeping in the family bed is a socio-economic necessity.  They simply can’t afford a crib.  The Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) Cribs for Kids program provides safe sleep education and cribs to families in need across the Philadelphia region.

MCC and DHS are putting out the call for help to corporations, foundations and individuals to provide critical funding in order to meet the growing demand for cribs. 
To request a crib – or to donate money for the purchase of new cribs – please call Cribs for Kids at 215.989.3589 or visit their Web site at