Ethan Cutts, MD

Pediatrics, KP North Valley

Safe Sleep Baby Program

“We’re educating parents on safe sleep practices, so that when they leave the hospital they have helpful ways of remembering the basics, and a crib for their baby to sleep safely if they need it.”

Just a decade ago, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) still presented something of a mystery: The risk factors for SIDS were not fully understood, nor was it clear whether the syndrome could be prevented.

So when Dr. Ethan Cutts, a pediatrician at KP Roseville, learned that 25 infants were dying in their sleep every year in Sacramento County alone—and that more than 30 years of county data on SIDS was available for analysis—he jumped at the opportunity to dig deeper. As he examined the numbers with a community task force organized by the Child Abuse Prevention Council, a clear pattern began to emerge.

“In every case we studied, we found at least one of three risk factors for SIDS: sleeping in non-infant beds, sleeping on the stomach or side, or co-sleeping with a parent or sibling,” says Dr. Cutts. “In other words, these tragedies were preventable.”

He sprang to action and offered to pilot a patient education program at KP Roseville called Safe Sleep Baby. Together with the maternity nursing staff, Dr. Cutts developed resources to teach parents the ABCs of safe sleep—alone, on their backs, and in a crib—and then made sure no child left the hospital without a crib at home.

“We ask all parents, ‘Where and how will your baby sleep?’” says Dr. Cutts. “We educate them about safe sleep environments, and if we learn they don’t have a crib or the means to purchase one, we provide a portable crib for the family.”

Safe Sleep Baby quickly spread to KP Sacramento and KP South Sacramento with such success that it was adopted not only throughout KP Northern California, but also by neighboring health systems in Sacramento County, including UC Davis, Sutter Health, and Dignity Health. Because of the community-wide adoption of this program, the number of sleep-related infant deaths in the county has dropped by more than 50%.