August 2002 // Volume 40 // Number 4 // Tools of the Trade // 4TOT6

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The Teachable Moment: A SIDS Training Model for Child Care Providers

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) remains the leading cause of death for infants in the United States, with a disproportionate number of deaths occurring in child care settings. This article describes a collaborative effort to teach child care providers about SIDS. The success of these workshops was partially because of the timing. They were held 3 months after a Connecticut Superior Court found a child care provider liable in a SIDS death of a 2 1/2-month-old infant. It is a reminder that Extension educators are in a perfect position to provide SIDS training and that program timing is critical.

Cathy Malley
Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences
University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System
Bethel, Connecticut
Internet Address:


Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has decreased by more than 40% since 1994, when the American Academy of Pediatrics initiated a "Back to Sleep" campaign. This national campaign simply recommended that parents, providers, and others responsible for the care of infants place babies on their back for the safest sleeping position. SIDS, however, still remains the country's deadliest and most unexplained health risk for infants between 2 and 4 months exclusively, but up to 1 year of age.

Research indicates that certain populations, for cultural, ethnic, regional, or environmental factors, are failing to abide by or are not being exposed to the specific preventative SIDS guidelines, especially back sleeping. Recent studies indicate that there are a disproportionately high number of SIDS deaths occurring in child care settings. One alarming statistic is that 20% (one of every five SIDS deaths) occur in a child care setting.

This information provides Extension educators with an underserved population in need of SIDS training. Even beyond licensed caregivers, training needs to permeate into the most private, unlicensed, and informal child care arrangements.

In May 2001, the Connecticut State Department of Public Health (DPH), United Way of Connecticut/Child Care Infoline, and the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System partnered to provide six regional SIDS training workshops throughout Connecticut. As a response to the high rate of SIDS deaths in child care settings, it was clear that all child care providers would be the target population for these trainings. What made these training workshops most effective and successful was their timing.

In January 2001, A Connecticut Superior Court found a child care provider liable in a SIDS death of a 2 1/2-month-old infant. This decision awarded the mother $800,000 in damages. It also caused Connecticut child care providers to rethink ages of acceptance into their care and to seek measures to protect themselves. The SIDS trainings found an ideal teachable moment to transfer essential information.

Of the 181 volunteer participants in these workshops:

  • 41% represented family based child care providers;
  • 55% represented center based providers; and
  • 4% represented others, including Child Care Infoline staff, DPH staff, and SIDS Alliance staff


The 2-hour workshops, held from 6-8 P.M., free of charge, focused on:

  • General information on SIDS,
  • Risk reduction strategies to reduce infant mortality,
  • SIDS protocols,
  • Strategies to provide supportive family intervention, and
  • Available community resources and referrals on SIDS

Following the training workshop, an evaluation was distributed to the participants. It is important to note that not all respondents replied to each question.

Table 1.
Impact Evaluation Following Training Workshop




Q1: How much information do you know about SIDS?


82% (N=148) experienced an increase in SIDS knowledge.

Q2: How much do you know about risk reduction strategies related to infant death?


79% (N=143) experienced an increase in knowledge of risk reduction strategies.

Q3: How much do you understand the strategies for supportive family care following a SIDS death?


86% (N=149) experienced an increase in knowledge of supportive family care following a SIDS death.

Q4: How much do you know about community resources and referrals related to SIDS?


93% (N=162) experienced an increase in knowledge of community resources and referrals.

Q5: As a result of this workshop, how prepared do you feel about working with SIDS?


79% (N=123) of participants felt more prepared to work with SIDS.

Q6: Do you plan to share any of this SIDS information and resources with other providers and/or parents?


96% (N=170) of participants planned to share SIDS information and resources with parents and/or other providers.

Participants were also asked for opinions on the SIDS training/trainer, general comments, and other training topics that they would find useful in their work. The feedback was crucial to the efficacy of the training/trainer, but also strengthened the relationship with child care providers by addressing their most pressing needs. Interestingly, topics for future training ranged from child abuse and neglect to how to get children to eat lunch.

Discussion and Conclusion

Historically, SIDS trainings have been directed towards expectant parents and individuals in the health and medical professions. Child care providers have been largely underserved in obtaining SIDS information and in other issues important to their work. It was apparent through the Connecticut trainings how receptive the audience was to the SIDS topic. The evaluations and general feedback of the SIDS workshops also served as an informal needs assessment of these child care providers.

The SIDS training became an excellent opportunity to tap into this important resource but also to teach-life saving skills to benefit our most vulnerable citizens. It appears that training for child care providers is another critical step in preventing SIDS and that Extension educators are in an ideal position to provide this important information.