Washington More than half of black parents place their babies to sleep on their stomachs or sides, putting them at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Wednesday.
Only 31 percent of black parents place babies on their backs, a position that reduces the risk of SIDS, versus 47 percent of white parents, according to a CPSC survey.
Blacks are also more likely to put quilts, comforters and pillows in bed with their newborns. Such soft bedding can increase the risk of SIDS death from suffocation and may have contributed to as many as 900 SIDS deaths a year.
The key is getting information to the right people within the black community, said CPSC officials. Blacks tend to learn safe-baby practices from a grandmother, mother or other family member who may still believe that it's safe to put babies to sleep on their stomachs because that's what they were taught.
"When you have family tradition, the way it's always been done, that's hard to counteract," Ann Brown, CPSC commissioner, said.
The commission on Wednesday launched a national "safe sleep" campaign aimed at blacks, joining with Black Entertainment Television, which will air nationwide public service announcements during prime viewing times and develop news stories about SIDS.
Three thousand government-funded health centers that serve minorities also will distribute literature to patients and work with state and local health departments. The aim is to get the word out to people in black communities family members, neighbors, clinics who are influential to young black mothers and fathers.
"If we start to reach grandmothers and other family members it will fan out across the community," said Brown.
The CPSC campaign, funded by Gerber Products Co., recommended several steps for babies under 12 months:
Place babies on their backs on firm, tight-fitting mattresses.
Remove all pillows, quilts, comforters and sheepskins from cribs.
Consider using a sleeper as an alternative to blankets.
If using a blanket, use a thin one and tuck it around the mattress so it reaches only as far as the baby's chest.
Never put babies to sleep on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow or other soft surface.
Fore more information, click on the Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site, www.cpsc.gov.