October is national SIDS Awareness Month, and the Kansas Infant Death & SIDS Network, Inc. (KIDS) has a number of events planned to mark the occasion (see below). Raising awareness about safe sleep practices is an ongoing challenge, however. KIDS Network Executive Director Christy Schunn notes that while many people have gotten the message that babies should be put to sleep on their backs, other factors that can endanger a sleeping infant are less widely recognized.
“We need to make sure that every infant is sleeping alone, on the back, in a crib,” said Schunn, explaining that ‘alone’ also means no bumpers, stuffed animals, loose blankets or other potential impediments to breathing. Given both their lack of muscular control and sensitive respiratory systems, “it doesn’t take a lot for a baby to stop breathing.”
A clutter-free crib is only part of the ideal sleeping environment. “We focus on safe sleep, but we know that breastfeeding and non-smoking environments reduce the risk of SIDS,” Schunn said. According to Dr. Michael Lu, associate administrator for Maternal and Child Health with the federal Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA), up to a third of SIDS cases nationally involved smoking.
As understanding of the contributing factors linked to SIDS or Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) grows, KIDS and its many local and national partners are working to change the behaviors that put sleeping babies at risk. In addition to collaborating on smoking cessation programs, KIDS Network gives away hundreds of portable cribs at community baby showers, provides safe-sleep kits to hospitals and physicians, and last year trained home visitors in 100 of 105 Kansas counties to deliver safe sleep education. They also offer support to families who have endured such a devastating loss.
“Our mission started with bereaved families, and changing the outcome for other people,” Shunn explained. “It’s that energy, that passion, that grief that I think moves the needle.”
From improving child care legislation to putting cribs in the hands of expectant mothers, KIDS and its partner organizations are promoting not only the message about safe sleep but the means to make it happen — regardless of income or education, age or geography.
“Infant mortality is a depiction of how healthy our community is, but when we’re talking about ‘these babies,’ they’re our babies,” said Schunn.
Oct. 3: Community Baby Shower for Safe Sleep, Wichita
Oct. 10: Wade’s Ride fundraiser, supporting safe sleep programs at Newman Regional Health, Emporia
Oct. 17: Community Baby Shower for Safe Sleep, Topeka
Nov. 7: Luke’s Community Baby Shower for Safe Sleep, Geary County