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IU School of Medicine faculty helping fathers learn about safe sleep

Levi Funches, Md 004

According to Indiana State Department of Health data from 2017, 1-in-6 infant deaths in Indiana are related to unsafe sleep. But many of these incidents could have been prevented. Indiana University School of Medicine faculty are working to help reduce cases of sudden unexpected infant death syndrome (SUIDs) by spending time with fathers, helping them learn about creating safe sleeping environments. The group is holding an event in collaboration with the Marion County Health Department on August 29 specifically for fathers to learn about safe sleep.

Below, IU School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics assistant professor Levi Funches Jr., MD, FAAP answers some common questions about safe sleep for infants.

What is SUIDs and how common is it?

SUIDs is an acronym for Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths, and it is when a baby dies for unknown reasons. It includes causes such as SIDS, accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed. In 2017, there were about 3,600 SUIDs in the United States. In Indiana, the infant mortality rate is such that one baby dies every 14 hours, and sleep-related deaths are contributing to this rate.

What are some ways parents can create a safe sleeping environment?

One way is to practice the “ABCs” of safe sleep. ‘A’ is for ‘alone,’ not with other people, pillows, blankets or stuffed animals. ‘B’ is for on the ‘back,’ not on the stomach or side. And ‘C’ is for in a ‘crib,’ not on an adult bed, cushion or other soft surface.

How should parents adjust their baby’s safe sleeping environment over time?

One adjustment recommended over time is to stop swaddling the baby once they are able to turn over on their own, because you don’t want a baby rolling over swaddled and risk accidental suffocation. Stomach sleeping is fine if they are able to get to that position on their own after being put to sleep on their back in a safe environment.

Why is important to have special events just for fathers?

Events like these are important because fathers are very important decision makers for infant sleep environments. We know that fathers are more likely to contribute to night-time waking care, thus they are making critical decisions on sleep positions for babies. We want to let fathers know that we recognize them and their care for their children and let them know that their role as a provider, nurturer and protector is important to the well-being of their child and their child’s development. Involving everyone in the village is going to be important in addressing infant mortality and saving the lives of babies.


The Fathers Safe Sleep Workshop will be held August 29, 2020 from 10 am – 12 pm at the JTV Hill Center, 1806 Columbia Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46202. Due to COVID-19 and in accordance with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-09 and Indiana Code 5-14-1.5-3.6, masks will be required and social distancing measures will be adhered to. Additionally, based on guidance from the CDC and the governor’s executive order regarding public meetings and Indiana Open Door law, the number of members of the public who are let into the workshop will be limited and registration is mandatory. For more information and to register, email

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Christina Griffiths

Christina is the media relations specialist for the IU School of Medicine Dean's Office of Strategic Communications.