July 23, 2019 | 68° F

New app provides newborn parents with vital information on proper sleep care

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

“SIDS Info” is an app developed by the SIDS Center of New Jersey of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School that feeds new parents information to prevent against sudden infant death syndrome, among additional resources. 

New parents now have access to readily available information about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) thanks to a new app. 

"SIDS Info" was developed by the SIDS Center of New Jersey (SCNJ) of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS). It consolidates important information for new mothers and their families, including proper sleep care for newborn infants. 

It was funded by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Health, said Barbara Ostfeld, program director at the center and one of the app’s creators. The center conceived the idea last year and rolled out the app this week. 

“When you are in the hospital for 48 hours after you’ve given birth, a lot of information comes your way, all about taking care of the umbilical cord, and taking care of yourself and establishing breastfeeding and on and on,” she said. “And so safe infant sleep is one of many important pieces of information.”

From 2013 to 2015, the Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) rate nationwide was 0.9 per 1,000 live births and the SUID rate in New Jersey was 0.6 per 1,000 live births, according to the New Jersey State Health Assessment Data. SUID is a category of sleep-related infant deaths consisting of SIDS, accidental suffocation and unspecified causes. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported approximately 3,700 sudden, unexpected infant deaths among those under 1 years old in America in 2015. Ostfeld said that the app will serve as a standardized tool for parents, caregivers and providers to access the American Academy of Pediatrics’ safe sleep guidelines — an effort to spread awareness and increase infant safety.

Each piece of information in the app is animated in some form to make it as appealing as possible, she said. It exists in three modalities: text, visuals and audio. 

After opening the app, users can tap on the baby icon, which leads to different topics such as “Place me to sleep on my back.” From there they can listen to a maternal voice read the text, scroll through informative screens, read text and view images on different subjects. There is also a “baby talk” component that provides additional information in a baby-sounding voice. 

Under the resources tab, there are links to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Safe Sleep Policy, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and more.

“Because it’s oral as well as written, visual, we overcome any concerns about literacy because people can hear the story, not just have to read the story,” Ostfeld said.

Socioeconomic conditions can impact infant mortality rates, something SCNJ considered in making the app, she said. By making it free, easy to access on today’s common technology and appealing to look at and use, the app avoids being skewed to favor certain populations.

The infant mortality rate, in the state, among Black babies is three times that of white babies, according to The Daily Targum. Factors that contribute to this disparity include poverty and racism. 

Ostfeld said there are many socioeconomic components that may contribute to a family not complying to the sleep guidelines, but that the app will give them a chance to refresh their knowledge and can spur future discussions and problem solving.

“We’re hoping that it will be something people access and then return to a few times for reminder tips,” she said. “Because compliance matters, and over time sometimes compliance drops off, and this gives people a chance to review and reinforce the initiative that they’ve taken on.”

Ostfeld said she hopes the app can serve as a standardized tool that everyone from care providers at hospitals to family members can reference. Providers can add to the script they give to educate families with a newborn, and families can have all of that information centralized in a form that is less likely to be lost or forgotten about.

Another advantage of the app is that the information is transferable.

“Since many hands touch a baby, it’s not just mama and papa but its grandma and grandpa, caregivers and so forth, the parents can inform all who care for a baby,” she said. “They can download it as well so that they have very clear information about what constitutes safe infant sleep.”

This can allow any caregiver to reassess the information whenever they might need to, she said. And due to its nature, the information can be updated whenever advancements occur.

The app is available on both iPhone and Android, Ostfeld said. It can be found under the search terms “SIDS info,” “SIDS Center of New Jersey” and “SCNJ.” 

She said that everything SCNJ does, in terms of education, considers the goal of increasing awareness, but more importantly increasing compliance with the guidelines. The introduction and spread of the American Academy of Pediatrics sleep guidelines have been associated with a significant decrease in infant-sleep related deaths, according to News Medical.

“It’s not just ‘what do you know,’ it’s ‘what do you do,’” Ostfeld said.

Editor's Note: Part of this article was updated to specifically reflect the SUID rates nationwide and in New Jersey.

Ryan Stiesi

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