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New Toolkit Launched to Promote Safe Infant Sleep Among First Nations and Aboriginal Families

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Vancouver – A new education toolkit has been launched to help service providers discuss safe infant sleep practices with First Nations and Aboriginal families and help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sudden unexplained death in infancy (SUDI).

The toolkit, Honouring Our Babies: Safe Sleep Cards & Guide, is interactive, evidence-informed, and incorporates cultural beliefs, practices, and issues specific to First Nations and Aboriginal communities. The toolkit includes a deck of 21 discussion cards and seven illustrated cards that can be used to prompt and guide discussions with families about safe infant sleep as well as a facilitator’s guide with more information on each card’s topic, research, resources, and graphics. The toolkit is based on the Safe Sleep Environment for Infants 0-12 Months Guideline developed by Perinatal Services BC, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority.

SIDS is the death of a baby under one year of age, which is sudden, unexpected, and without a clear cause. SIDS usually happens during sleep or napping and is the most common cause of death in babies between the ages of one month and one year. SUDI is the sudden unexpected and unexplained death of an infant where risk factors are present and may or may not contribute to the death. Although the exact cause or causes are not known, there are clear safe sleep practices that are known to reduce a baby’s risk for SIDS and SUDI. The toolkit is designed to help service providers talk to families about these safe sleep practices.

Research shows that Aboriginal babies in BC were four times more likely to die from SIDS than non-Aboriginal babies. In response, a special Tripartite working group was formed among the First Nations Health Authority, Government of Canada, and the Government of BC—with input from First Nations and Aboriginal Elders, community members, and content experts—to develop a culturally appropriate safe sleep training initiative that could be incorporated into existing programs and services. Honouring Our Babies: Safe Sleep Cards & Guide is an initiative of the Tripartite First Nations and Aboriginal Maternal and Child Health Committee and was led by Perinatal Services BC.

Honouring our Babies: Safe Sleep Cards & Guide can be used by anyone who would like to to discuss safe infant sleep with First Nations and Aboriginal parents and families. The toolkit can be downloaded from the First Nations Health Authority website at www.fnha.ca under the Maternal and Child Health section.

Quotes 

Terry Lake, Minister of Health –
The rate of sudden infant death syndrome among Aboriginal and First Nations families in BC is heartbreaking. As a province, we need to find improved or new ways to address this problem and ensure babies are not at risk for SIDS. This tripartite partnership is a great example of how government and Aboriginal and First Nations communities collaborated to develop a culturally relevant toolkit that will make a difference to the lives of those babies.

Kim Williams, Provincial Executive Director, Perinatal Services BC –
Losing a child is devastating—in any circumstance. We want to ensure service providers and the parents they see have solid knowledge about the risks of sudden infant death syndrome and understand how to reduce those risks by ensuring their baby is sleeping in a safe environment. Every sleep counts. Every time a baby is placed down to sleep—at night or for naps—it is important for parents and caregivers to ensure the infant is in a safe sleep environment. The interactive nature of the toolkit will help empower parents to improve the health and safety of their precious babies.

​Richard Jock, Vice-President, Policy, Planning and Straetgic Services, First Nations Health Authority – 
These resources were developed in close collaboration with BC First Nations community members and health professionals to ensure they would be culturally respectful and effective. The First Nations Health Authority is pleased to hear positive feedback from health service providers who have already begun to use these resources in their practice. Honouring Our Babies encourages open and positive discussion about safe sleep practices and contributes to increased awareness of risk factors related to sudden infant death. This family-friendly resource was created through effective partnerships and community involvement that meaningfully supports the aims of the Tripartite First Nations Health Plan.

Learn More

  • October is SIDS Awareness Month.
  • Download Safe and Sound: A Five Year Retrospective on Sudden Infant Death in Sleep-related Circumstances, a report by the Child Death Review Unit of the BC Coroners Service 
  • Download the Perinatal Services BC Guideline Safe Sleep Environment for Infants 0-12 Months
  • Download Honouring Our Babies: Safe Sleep Cards & Guide 
  • The front side of each of the 21 discussion cards contains a question related to safe infant sleep, as well as other holistic aspects of infant health and safety. 
  • The front of each of the seven illustrated card shows key safe sleep practices as well as unsafe sleep practices. The back side of each card contains key messages to support service providers to discuss the topic and provide guidance to parents. 
  • The facilitator’s guide provides a greater degree of information on each card’s topic and includes an appendix with additional research, resources, and graphics.
  • The most important ways to create a safe sleep place for your baby are to:
    1. Place your baby on his/her back to sleep.
    2. Ensure a smoke-free environment while pregnant and after your baby is born.
    3. Place your baby to sleep in the same room for the first six months (on a separate safe sleep surface). Adult mattresses are too soft for babies to sleep safely on.
    4. Breastfeed your baby. It helps protect against SIDS/SUDI.
    5. Ensure your baby does not overheat while sleeping (do not use toques or hats indoors, heavy blankets, or swaddling).
    6. Place your baby to sleep on a firm surface that is free of hazards. Waterbeds, adult mattresses, couches, recliners and sheepskins are not firm enough for baby to sleep safely. Loose blankets, pillows, and toys should not be in your baby’s sleep area.
    7. Ensure the crib, cradle, bassinet, or other sleep equipment meeds the safety standards in the Crib and Cradle Regulations. Cribs made before September 1986 do not meet the standards and should not be used.

Perinatal Services BC, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides leadership, support, and coordination for the strategic planning of perinatal services in British Columbia in collaboration with regional health authorities and other key stakeholders. PSBC is the central source in the province for evidence-based perinatal information. For more information, visit www.perinatalservicesbc.ca.

The Provincial Health Services Authority plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca.

The First Nations Health Authority is a health service delivery organization created and mandated to support BC First Nations to implement a number of guiding agreements and documents seeking to elevate BC First Nations health outcomes through the creation a more effective health care system. For more information, visit www.fnha.ca

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Media Contact

Lubna Ekramoddoullah
Communications Officer
Perinatal Services BC
604-877-2121, Ext 223736
lekramod@phsa.ca​​​

 
 
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