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Mayor Muriel Bowser 

Thrive by Five DC, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Partner to Promote Infant Safe Sleep Practices

Thursday, April 8, 2021


April 8, 2021



Sward Tondoneh (DMHHS) – (202) 716-5126, [email protected]


Thrive by Five DC, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Partner to Promote Infant Safe Sleep Practices


(Washington, DC)—Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Thrive by Five DC and the DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will launch the DC Safe Sleep Education and Outreach Project– in partnership with the Child Fatality Review Committee’s Infant Mortality Review Sub-Committee, Department of Health, Child and Family Services Agency, Department of Human Services, Department of Health Care Finance, and the DC Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Funding for this three-year collaboration comes from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Although many U.S. states and territories have seen decreases in sleep-related infant deaths over the last few years, the District’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported an increase in these deaths between 2014 and 2018 (PDF 7.5 MB). Sleep-related causes of death include SIDS—the sudden, unexplained death of an infant younger than 1 year of age that does not have a known cause, even after a full investigation—or suffocation, overlay, or other deaths from an unsafe sleep environment.


“I am excited about this collaboration and the partnerships it is sparking to move us toward sustainable solutions and more positive outcomes for our babies. Together, with families, we can make sure our babies have everything they need to thrive, and that includes safe sleep environments and practices,” said Dr. Faith Gibson Hubbard, Executive Director of Thrive by Five.  


“Every parent or caregiver wants their child to have the best start in life,” said Dr. Francisco J. Diaz, Chief Medical Examiner for the District. “The project will provide families with valuable information on how to provide the safest possible sleeping environment for their infants, helping to reduce sleep-related deaths in the District and providing opportunities for  each child to have a strong start.”


The partnership will be a District-wide initiative in collaboration with over 40 public and private agencies and organizations, including hospitals, service providers, community organizations and District residents, joining together to further promote uniform safe sleep education and environments for infants. Partnership highlights will include safe infant sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and will support parents and caregivers with following the ABCs of infant sleep, making sure babies sleep: Alone, on their Backs, in their own Crib or other safety-approved sleep surface that is designed for infants and separate from the adult bed.  

The effort will also create opportunities for District residents to learn more about:

  • The importance of keeping baby’s environments smoke-free

  • The choices parents and caregivers make when determining a sleeping environment for their infant

  • Why parents and caregivers might choose to sleep in an adult bed with their infant (bedsharing) and the dangers of that decision

  • Why parents and caregivers may decline to use a safe sleep device (i.e., a crib, bassinette, or other safe sleeping product)

  • The dangerous impact of using illicit or sedating drugs and alcohol when sleeping in the bed with an infant

  • The dangers and effects of lack of sleep or other stressors on decisions to bed share with an infant

  • Additional supports and resources families may need to provide a safer sleeping environment for their infants.

Additional project activities will include the promotion of uniform safe sleep educational resources for hospitals, physicians, service providers and others to utilize when discussing safe sleep practices with families, especially at hospital discharges and well-child visits. The project will also aim to make safe sleep educational materials widely available in the community as part of a District-wide Safe Sleep campaign.