Legislation that would firm up safe-sleep rules for infants in day care gained support Thursday from the statewide association of licensed in-home child-care providers.

The bill, which would require a doctor's OK before child-care providers put infants to sleep on their stomachs, has the backing of the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association, which represents thousands of small providers.

"We're very excited for that change," said Katy Chase, the group's executive director. "It will decrease risk. It puts another piece in place that will possibly save lives."

Now, parents can give written permission to in-home day-care providers to place infants to sleep in positions other than on their backs, which is the nationally recognized best practice to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). A bill introduced Tuesday by Rep. Patti Fritz, DFL-Faribault, would change the rules and require a doctor's written authorization.

Fritz's bill comes as a response to a Star Tribune investigation showing that the number of infant deaths in Minnesota day cares has nearly doubled in the past five years. That spike coincides with a loosening of safe-sleep standards five years ago.

For two decades, the standard to reduce the risk of death while sleeping has been to place infants on firm crib mattresses on their backs. In some cases uncovered by the newspaper, providers didn't follow that practice. The newspaper also found several instances in which parents reportedly gave only verbal permission to providers.

Chase said her group hopes to push other safe-sleep provisions in the coming year. The accepted standard for crib safety says infants should not sleep with blankets, but state law is not clear on that, she said. Chase said her group hopes to make that clear through changes in the law.

"We'll work to firm this up even more," she said.

jeremy.olson@startribune.com 612-673-7744 brad.schrade@startribune.com 612-673-4777