Alexandria Organizations Partner to Help Parents Prevent Infant Deaths

Maria Gonzalez demonstrates how to set up a cribette for parents needing a safe place for their baby to sleep.

By Michelle Smith Howard, President and CEO, Kids’ First Years

Alexandria, VA – You and your newborn baby are home from the hospital, and it’s time to put the baby down for a nap or for bedtime at night so you can get a few precious hours of sleep. Just like you need a safe place to sleep at home, so does your little one. But what does that mean, especially if this is your first child and everything seems overwhelming?

The Family Connections Committee of Kids’ First Years wants to let all Alexandria parents of infants know about the Safe Sleep initiative created to address and prevent infant deaths by SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or SUIDS (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome).

“Our goal is to ensure that every infant in Alexandria has a safe place to sleep and every parent has information and resources about safe sleep,” said Nanci Pedulla, Director of Healthy Families & Community Health Equity Programs at Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS), the coordinating agency for the Safe Sleep initiative.

To achieve that goal, the Safe Sleep initiative provides expectant and new parents with accurate, up-to-date information on safe sleep practices. Also, it provides a free portable crib that families with limited resources can use for their infant.

Bruhn Morris Family Foundation provided funding for the Safe Sleep initiative. Along with NVFS, the collaborative community partners include Kids’ First Years, Neighborhood Health, Center for Alexandria’s Children, Alexandria Health Department, Inova Community Health, Alexandria City Public Schools, Environmental Health & Safety, and the Parent & Infant Education (PIE) program of the Department of Community and Human Services.

The ABCs of Safe Sleep

Creating a Safe Sleep plan is easy when parents remember the ABCs of Safe Sleep.

A is for ALONE

A baby sleeps safest when sleeping alone for every nap and at every bedtime. Research shows that 69% of accidental infant deaths while sleeping occur when the baby shares a bed with an adult.

Some Safe Sleep practices regarding ALONE include:

  • Never let the baby sleep in an adult bed with the parents.
  • After night feedings, always place the baby back into their crib.
  • Never let the baby sleep on a chair or couch with or without an adult or older child. If the baby falls asleep in your arms, transfer to the crib as soon as possible.
  • Make sure that pets do not have access to the baby’s crib.
  • A baby should never share a crib with a sibling.
  • Twins should always have separate sleep spaces.

B is for BACK

Babies should always be put to sleep on their back, never on their tummy or their side. Research indicates that infant sleep-related deaths declined by 50% once parents began placing their babies on their backs to sleep instead of on their tummies.

Some Safe Sleep information regarding BACK includes:

  • Rest assured that there is no risk of choking on spit up while a baby sleeps on its back. The baby might cough, but that is not choking. People cough to clear and protect their airways and healthy babies do that too.
  • Once the baby can roll over independently, it is safe to let them sleep as they wish. Parents should always start the nap/bedtime by putting the baby on its back to sleep, but adjusting them throughout the night is unnecessary.
  • Providing lots of quality “tummy time” when the baby is awake and supervised will help to develop their fine motor skills and strengthen their muscles.

C is for CRIB

Infants should sleep in a crib, bassinet, or play yard that meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) safety standard.

Closeup of the cribette distributed by Northern Virginia Family Service for the Safe Sleep initiative.

Some Safe Sleep information regarding CRIB includes:

  • It is recommended that the baby’s crib, bassinet, or play yard be set up in your bedroom for the first 6-12 months.
  • If the baby falls asleep in a car seat, swing, or bouncy seat, you should move them to the crib as soon as possible.
  • Decorate the room, not the crib. The baby’s crib should be completely empty of bumper pads, pillows, blankets, and stuffed toys. Use a wearable blanket to keep the baby warm.
  • The only thing in the baby’s crib should be a firm mattress covered by a tight-fitting sheet.

Free Cribettes™ Available from NVFS

Here in Alexandria, the Safe Sleep partners are committed to providing a cribette to any family who needs one, no questions asked. “No child in a family that needs it will go without a safe place to sleep,” stated Nanci Pedulla.

The cribette in the Safe Sleep initiative is a play yard designed for safety and fun. It promotes safe sleep habits by providing a cozy, solo space for baby’s naptime or bedtime. Designed to be portable and durable, the cribette includes a bassinet with mesh on all four sides to allow 360-degree child visibility.

To get more information about the cribettes being distributed in Alexandria by NVFS, contact [email protected]. For more Safe Sleep tips, visit

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