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18th Annual Spring Conference
April 1-5 2017

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Healthy from the Start
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The National Healthy Start Association Joins National Safe Sleep/Breastfeeding Collaborative

In a unique model of partnership, The National Healthy Start Association has joined the National Action Partnership to Promote Safe Sleep (NAPPSS)—a coalition of over 50 advocacy organizations, professional associations, faith communities, representatives of diverse racial and ethnic communities, and business groups dedicated to promoting safe infant sleep and breastfeeding. No two issues are more critical for parents than learning how to feed and sleep their babies in the healthiest way possible. As one coalition partner put it, “I believe this group has real potential to combine efforts and ‘move the needle’ regarding safe sleep/breastfeeding adoption.”

The joint focus on both safe sleep practices and breastfeeding is in response to the overarching goal to make sure that every baby lives and thrives. Each year in this country, more than 3,400 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly while they sleep. Many of these sleep-related deaths could be prevented through safer sleep practices. Breastfeeding provides many benefits to infants including more balanced nutrition, protection against infections, long-term health and developmental benefits and better survival during the first year of life with decreased risk of SIDS.

Although 75-80% of babies start out breastfeeding, only 50% are still being breastfed by six months. There are racial disparities in both sleep related deaths and adoption of breastfeeding. Public health campaigns have promoted safe sleep and breastfeeding, yet even parents who know about the benefits of safe sleep and breastfeeding sometimes choose not to adopt them.  In the end, decisions about how to care for infants are very personal. We need to develop ways of sharing individualized conversations with parents and other infant caregivers about breastfeeding and safe sleep; effective conversations acknowledge challenges, offer support, and respect cultural beliefs and practices.

In May 2015, NAPPSS convened an Action Forum that brought together long-standing leaders in maternal and infant health as well as new and diverse partners that touch families in their everyday lives. These new partners include media outlets and manufacturers, injury prevention and child care programs, representatives of racial and ethnic communities, and breastfeeding advocates.

Forum participants brainstormed innovative approaches to engage families in conversations about safe sleep and breastfeeding, and how to address challenges that families face. In follow up to the Forum, NAPPSS Action Teams, including The National Healthy Start Association, will carry out specific action steps to help families meet their safe sleep and breastfeeding goals.

With leadership and support from the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau, NAPPSS is directed by a four-member steering committee: The National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health, and the National Center for Cultural Competence, both at Georgetown University; First Candle; and Tomorrow’s Child/Michigan. To learn more, please visit www.nappss.org or call NHSA at 202-296-2195.