Colts and IU Health Teaming up to teach the ABCs of Safe Sleep

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November 2016

Writer / Janelle Morrison

They have teamed up to provide a solution: sleep slack swaddles. When used properly, they ensure safe sleep and reduce the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), one of the top three causes of infant death.
Parents of all babies born at IU Health hospitals across Indiana will receive one sleep sack per baby and education on its proper use. The initiative will last at least two full years. The sleep sacks are co-branded with the Riley Children’s Health and the Indianapolis Colts logos

“We believe infant mortality is a profoundly important concern that needs attention now,” said Mathew Cook – president of Riley Children’s Health. “By providing parents with tools and education on safe sleeping for infants, we can save countless young lives across the state of Indiana.”

A sleep sack is a blanket swaddle that replaces loose blankets in the crib, which can cover a baby’s face and cause breathing problems. Sleep sacks keep a baby warm and even soothe a fussy baby by giving a sense of security. Swaddling newborns also prevents sudden movements, which can startle and cause them to wake.
Riley Children’s Health staff will teach parents the ABCs of safe sleep: All by myself, on my back, in my crib. By teaching families how to provide safe sleep habits, Riley Children’s Health and the Indianapolis Colts want to increase positive outcomes and decrease the alarming number of infant deaths.
Carlie Irsay-Gordon, the Colts vice chair and owner, is proud to partner with Riley Children’s Health. As a mother of three young daughters, the importance of safe sleeping is near and dear to her heart.

“I am on the Riley Children’s Hospital foundation board, and we had a meeting on infant mortality,” Irsay-Gordon said. “This is important for me and my family iucolts3to get people on the right track with something that babies need to keep them safe. My family and the entire Colts organization are honored to be able to launch this initiative alongside Riley Children’s Health as we strive to reduce Indiana’s infant mortality rate and provide vital resources for parents throughout our state.

“There are so many young moms and young parents that may not have a support group or family to help them,” she continued. “They don’t have anyone willing to step in and offer advice and to teach them what they need to do to keep their baby safe. First-time moms are especially tired and sleep deprived and, if their husband is at work and they don’t have a support group, it can be overwhelming. The sleep sack initiative may not fix all of the issues, but it is certainly a step in the right direction,” she said.

“Family is something that is really important to our organization. Our fans pass on their excitement for our team onto their kids, and we just couldn’t be happier to partner with this initiative and to help to keep Hoosier babies safe,” Irsay-Gordon said.

Dr. Jerome Adams, commissioner for the Indiana State Department of Health, weighed in on the severity of the state’s infant mortality rate and how organizations can make a difference. “Too many babies don’t live to see their first birthdays,” Adams said. “We are at the bottom of the pack [and rank] 26th out of 29 of economically developed countries. Our infant mortality rate is worse than places like Slovakia. In Indiana, depending on the study, we are the 7th to 10th worst state in the country on infant mortality. It’s a hard truth, but one that we don’t need to accept. Governor Pence has charged the State Department of Health to look at changing that statistic by researching the factors that contribute to infant mortality and by supporting initiatives such as this one. What we have found so far, quite frankly, is sobering.

Adams said that too many pregnant women lack proper prenatal care or smoke. Where a woman lives and the color of her skin has a disproportionate impact on her baby’s health.

iucolts5“Unsafe sleep is another contributor to infant mortality,” he said. “In 2014, the number of Indiana babies who died due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed is two times the national average. That is an unacceptable statistic. I am so grateful to Riley and the Colts for this initiative. They are a wonderful complement to the safe sleep message that we are promoting through our ‘Labor of Love’ campaign, to teach people about the ABCs of safe sleeping.”

He told the tragic story about a Cincinnati couple. “The dad, who was in medical training, came home from work and put his baby on his chest to rest. He rolled over and accidentally suffocated the baby. I cannot say it enough, alone, on their back and in their crib.” Adams stressed that we have to change the culture. “We have got to change that culture on Facebook of those cute posts picturing babies sleeping with the parents. These safe sleep sacks will help reinforce those messages and allow parents to swaddle their babies in a safe way. We need partnerships like this to truly move the needle on infant mortality. If we all work together, we can give the next generation its best hope for a long and healthy future.”
The sleep sacks are available for purchase and can be purchased at the Safety Stores at IU Health hospitals and can be purchased at select retail stores. For more information on the sleep sacks visit