First Candle

first candle

Great strides have been made at reducing infant mortality through the support, research and advocacy of First Candle. This nonprofit health organization works to unite and educate parents, health care providers, government officials and community leaders about infant health and survival.

About First Candle

Initially called the National SIDS Foundation, the group's original focus in the early 1960s was to lend support to families whose babies died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the sudden and unexplained death of a child under the age of 12 months. Through outreach programs and support groups, aid was given to parents during a time when the death of infant was barely talked about or even acknowledged.

During that period, grassroots efforts were made to secure funding for the first-ever national SIDS research project which not only coined the term "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome," but concluded that the deaths occurred because of a "lethal disorder that seemed to arise from a common, underlying problem, rather than an assemblage of unrelated causes."

New Name, New Focus

In 1987, the National SIDS Foundation joined forces with several regional and national SIDS groups, forming the SIDS Alliance. While the group remained dedicated to helping families, it also served as an umbrella organization to many smaller SIDS entities. Through research and the education of health care providers and parents, the SIDS Alliance was proud to show a large reduction of SIDS cases -- at times up to 30 percent less. As the organization expanded, so did their mission. In 1987, the group broadened its objective to also focus on other types of infant death such as stillbirth and miscarriage, with the hopes of reducing those mortality rates as well. At that same time, the organization also changed its name to reflect this new mission. First Candle -- Helping Babies Survive and Thrive reflects the group's goals and hopes for the future. Statistics show that each year, 26,000 babies die from stillbirth and 4,500 from SIDS or Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID). The group's main purpose now is to explore new research methods to help save all babies' lives.

Programs and Services Available

Besides being advocates for SIDS and infant death issues and research, First Candle is also provides several programs and services:

  • Family Support: Bereavement services are offered to those who lost a child. Peer support training, grief packets, conferences and local support services are available. Bilingual crisis counselors are on-hand 24 hours a day to lend telephone support.
  • Research: Over the years, the group has secured more than $4 million to fund 40 research projects which has helped further the understanding of SIDS and infant death.
  • National SIDS and Infant Death Program Support Center (PSC): Together with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Serviced Administration, First Candle is assisting many local and state programs and service providers to meet the needs of those impacted by the death of an infant.
  • Advocacy: First Candle also works with local and national government officials to make sure infant health programs continue to receive adequate funding.
  • Education and Awareness: One of the organization's goals is to educate parents, professionals and community groups about infant health. This is done through its website, brochures, fact sheets and toll-free information hotline.

How You Can Help

There are several ways to get involved:

  • Donations: Because it is a non-profit organization, the group relies on donations to function.
  • Advocacy: Contact local and state officials expressing that funding for infant health programs need to continue.
  • Membership: Become one of the group's corporate partners.
  • Special events: Participate in a local event sponsored by First Candle, such as a walk-a-thon, golf tournament or benefit concert. More volunteer opportunities are also available.

For More Information

There are several ways you can contact First Candle:

  • Website:
  • Toll-free 24-hour hotline: (800) 221-7437.
  • E-mail:
  • Mailing address: First Candle, 1314 Bedford Avenue, Suite 210, Baltimore, MD 21208
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