MSHA partners with the Tenn. Department of Health to reduce sleep-related infant deaths


Twenty percent of all infant deaths in Tennessee are due to unsafe sleep practices. In an effort to save lives, the Family Birth Centers at Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) have partnered with the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) to reduce infant mortality by promoting the ABCs of safe sleep for infants: Infants should sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib.

Studies have shown that when parents go home, they put their babies to sleep the same way they see their baby positioned in the hospital. But at home, babies do not have the same monitoring and supervision as in the hospital.

This is why Niswonger Children’s Hospital, Johnson City Medical Center and Franklin Woods Community Hospital in Johnson City and Indian Path Medical Center in Kingsport have implemented a safe-sleep policy for all infants in the hospital. Team members who care for infants will receive annual training that includes education on best practices for a safe sleep, and how to educate new parents on placing babies to sleep when they go home.

“We are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children, which is why our safe-sleep policy allows us to not only educate new parents on safe sleep guidelines but to be the example of what a safe-sleep environment looks like,” said Steven Godbold, Niswonger Children’s Hospital CEO. 

Although Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has decreased in Tennessee, preventable sleep-related deaths are on the rise. A primary cause of sleep-related infant death is suffocation, which can happen with an adult rolls over on an infant or when an infant is smothered by pillows or blankets. Out of 1,000 babies born in Tennessee in 2012, seven did not reach their first birthday due to sleep-related deaths. 

Safe sleep practices can prevent sleep-related deaths. MSHA Family Birth Centers promote the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that infants should:

  • Always be placed on their backs to sleep;
  • Sleep alone in a crib or bassinet, although the crib or bassinet can be in the same room as an adult caregiver;
  • Not have bumper pads, blankets, stuffed animals, toys or pets in their cribs;
  • Sleep on a firm crib mattress with the mattress covered only by a fitted sheet.

MSHA is committed to the health and safety of all patients and is proud to partner with the Tennessee Department of Health in this effort to reduce infant deaths. 

For more information on sleep-related deaths, visit the TDH website at


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