Implementation of safe sleep practices in the neonatal intensive care unit

J Perinatol. 2015 Oct;35(10):862-6. doi: 10.1038/jp.2015.79. Epub 2015 Jul 9.


Objective: To increase the percentage of eligible infants engaging in safe sleep practices (SSP) in two level III neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in the Boston, Massachusetts area.

Study design: On the basis of eligibility criteria (⩾34 weeks or ⩾1800 g without acute medical conditions), all infants were eligible for two sleep practices: SSP or NICU therapeutic positioning (NTP) depending on their gestational age, weight, clinical illness and need for therapeutic interventions. Compliance with SSP was defined as: (1) supine positioning, (2) in a flat crib with no incline, (3) without positioning devices and (4) without toys, comforters or fluffy blankets. NTP comprised usual NICU care. Nursing education was comprised of a web-based learning module and in-person teaching sessions with a study team member. Double-sided crib cards (SSP one side and NTP on the other) were attached to the bedside of every infant. Pre- and postintervention audits of all infants were carried out at both study sites. We compared compliance across all time points using generalized estimating equations to account for correlated data (SAS v9.3, Cary, NC, USA).

Result: Of 755 cases, 395 (52.3%) were assessed to be eligible for SSP. From the pre- to post-intervention period, there was a significant improvement in overall compliance with SSP (25.9 to 79.7%; P-value<0.001). Adherence to each component of SSP also improved significantly following the intervention.

Conclusion: Safe infant sleep practices can be integrated into the routine care of preterm infants in the NICU. Modeling SSP to families far in advance of hospital discharge may improve adherence to SSP at home and reduce the risk of sleep-related morbidity and mortality in this vulnerable population of infants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bedding and Linens
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant Care / standards*
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / organization & administration*
  • Massachusetts
  • Neonatal Nursing / education*
  • Patient Discharge
  • Patient Positioning*
  • Sleep*