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NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue Receives Award for Improving Safe Sleep Infant Practices

New York State Department of Health recognizes NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue with a Quality Improvement Award for ongoing practices to help reduce the infant mortality rate

In March, NYC Health + Hospitals began providing ‘Safe Sleep Toolkits’ to parents of newborns at all 11 hospitals

Approximately 50 infants in NYC die each year from preventable unsafe sleep conditions

May 22, 2019

New York, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue today announced that it had been recognized by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) with the New York State Perinatal Quality Collaborative (NYSPQC) Safe Sleep Project’s 2017 Quality Improvement Award for its work in continuing to improve safe sleep practices for infants. As a participant in the Safe Sleep Project, NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue worked to improve documentation of caregiver safe sleep education during birth hospitalization, modeling of a safe sleep environment during birth hospitalization, and infant caregivers’ understanding of safe sleep educational messages. The award supports the Safe Sleep Project’s mission of reducing infant sleep-related deaths by improving safe sleep practices. NYC Health + Hospitals, City’s Administration for Children’s Services, and the NYC Health Department have worked closely to promote safe sleep practices for families with infants.. NYC Health + Hospital/Bellevue’s efforts build on several public awareness campaigns that educated New Yorker parents about safe sleep practices.

“NYC Health + Hospitals system is dedicated to providing the best possible care to our littlest patients and educating families about keeping their newborns healthy and safe, even while they sleep,” said William Hicks, Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. “Our staff worked hard to enhance their safe sleep practices here at the hospital, so it’s an honor to receive this prestigious award from the New York State Department of Health.”

“We commend your entire team for their exemplary work and commitment to this important cause. We congratulate you and recognize the work your birthing facility’s team has done to reach the goal of modeling safe sleep practices and providing safe sleep education to parents and caregivers,” said Marilyn A. Kacica, MD, MPH, Executive Director of NYSPQC.

“Every year, approximately 50 babies in New York City tragically die due to sleep-related causes and that’s why New York City is doing everything it can to promote safe sleep practices and prevent future tragedies,” said ACS Commissioner David A. Hansell. “We applaud NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue for its life-saving work and look forward to our continued partnership with NYC Health + Hospitals in distributing safe sleep toolkits to parents and caregivers at public hospitals throughout the city.”

“Our Maternal Child Health staff is dedicated to reducing infant sleep-related death through proper education and modeling of safe sleep practices during the patient’s hospital stay,” said Vicky Holman, RN, Director of Nursing, Labor and Delivery at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. “Each day and each patient encounter provides an opportunity for staff to educate families and heighten awareness about safe sleep practices. Every member of our team is committed and dedicated to this important cause.”

“This award is given in recognition of the hard work and dedication of your facility’s staff to improve safe sleep practices for infants,” said Kristen Lawless, Program Director, NYSPQC, Division of Family Health, NYS Department of Health. “We commend your entire team for their exemplary work. We hope staff at your facility will continue to focus on these areas to ensure ongoing success.”

This collaboration of NYSPQC Safe Sleep Project and birthing facilities including NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue took place between September 2015 and 2017. According to the NYSPQC, participating facilities in this project reported a nine percent increase with documentation of safe sleep education during hospitalization by hospital care providers, a 22 percent increase with infant caregivers understanding safe sleep practices before being discharged, and a 38 percent increase in safe sleep environments of infants all from September 2015 to July 2017. Approximately, 50 babies die each year from sleep-related injuries.

As a participant in the Safe Sleep Project, NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue supports the NYSPQC mission to reduce infant sleep-related deaths and those efforts can be achieved by continuing to improve safe sleep practices with hospital care providers and infant caregivers. The Safe Sleep Project is just one of many of NYSPQC’s ongoing intervention projects. These projects include reducing maternal morbidity and mortality of childbirth, identify and manage women with opioid use during pregnancy and infant aftercare, and optimizing nutrition for newborns younger than 31 weeks of the gestational age.

Safe Sleep Toolkits

Over a year approximately 16,000 NYC Health + Hospital families will receive a kit. Each package contains an educational “Breath of Life” DVD detailing safe sleep practices, a blanket to keep a baby warm, an infant onesie, crib netting, and educational materials on best practices for infant safe sleep. In addition, parents are educated on Safe Sleep practices. Education is provided in a variety of ways and may include group discussions, one-on-one sessions with a nurse or instructor, watching the Safe Sleep video, and information on how to apply a sleep sack.

Below are some ways in which families can create a safe sleep environment:

Avoid bed sharing. A baby should never sleep in an adult bed, on a couch or on a chair with anyone. Babies may suffocate if another person accidently rolls on top of them or covers their nose and mouth.

Babies should be placed on their backs to sleep. Babies breathe better on their backs than on their stomachs or sides. Sleeping on their backs opens up their chests and makes it easier for them to draw in more oxygen to their brains. Babies who sleep on their sides can more easily roll onto their stomach, making it harder for them to breathe and increasing their risk of suffocation. Babies are also MORE likely to choke, if they spit up, when placed on their stomach.

Use a firm sleep surface with a fitted sheet made for that specific product. Babies should be placed on a flat surface for all sleep times. Though it might seem more comfortable to put a pillow on top of the mattress, babies may suffocate on the soft surface. Do not use a car seat, carrier, swing, bouncer or similar product as a sleep area. These surfaces are not designed for a baby to sleep on and are very dangerous.

Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any other items that could increase the risk of suffocation out of the baby’s sleep area. Loose and soft bedding can be very dangerous to a baby. Do not place pillows, blankets, toys, or bumper pads anywhere in your baby’s sleep area. If one of those things gets on the baby’s face, they may not be able to move their face away and can suffocate.

If you are worried about your baby getting cold, dress them in a wearable blanket, such as a sleep sack, or in another layer of infant clothing. In general, your baby should be dressed with only one more layer than what you are wearing. If you have poor heating in your apartment and your landlord does not address the heating issue, call 311 for help.

Keep your baby’s crib free of any food or drink that may attract pests. Crib netting may also provide some protection. For more on how to control pests safely, visit and search for “pests.” If you have pest problems in your home and your landlord does not correct them, call 311 for help.

Breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding has many health benefits for mother and baby, including reducing the risk of SIDS. While the cause of SIDS is unknown, breast milk may help build a baby’s immune system to fight SIDS-related infections. Babies fed only breast milk get the most protection against SIDS. However, any breastfeeding provides more protection than no breastfeeding at all. Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact also keep babies calm, and can help mothers bond with their babies and regulate their body temperatures, breathing and heart rate.

NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue is the Regional Perinatal Center for all of the medical facilities in NYC Health + Hospitals and is a Level III Newborn Intensive Care Unit. NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue has also received a Baby Friendly designation from the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and recognition from the National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program by the Cribs for Kids, a Pittsburgh-based organization dedicated to preventing infant sleep-related deaths due to accidental suffocation. The hospital has services that provide care for women with high risk pregnancies and newborn patients requiring complex services.

For more information on infant safe sleep best practices or resources in your community, visit: or call 311 and ask for Safe Sleep. For more information about Labor and Delivery services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, visit or call 212-562-5555.


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