The instinct to comfort a child, to help a child sleep, by cuddling the child close in bed may seem natural - even loving. One thing it is not, is safe. And Public Health of Madison and Dane County officials are joining an effort to educate parents to put babies to sleep on their backs in their own beds.

The Dane County Safe Sleep Initiative is in response to 26 deaths from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death in the last five years, 22 of those in unsafe sleep environments. To prevent accidental suffocations or strangulations, local health officials are recommending American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for putting a baby to sleep on his or her back, on a firm mattress in a crib free from pillows, blankets or soft toys. It's OK to share the room with the sleeping infant, but not the bed.

Sudden infant deaths are heartbreakingly tragic. They are also preventable. We can all help spread the word: sleep safe, sleep well.