Despite education, outreach and diligent information from health officials and childcare advocates, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) remains the number one killer for babies 1 - 12 months of age in North Carolina. Across the nation, it is estimated that 7,000 babies die each year, equivalent to one every hour. How is it that children still pass away in their sleep despite our best efforts to be vigilant, caring parents? What can parents do and who can they turn to for help?
There is a state organization working hard with health care providers to provide the latest information for new parents on this painful health issue. The North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation is a non-profit organization working to reduce infant mortality, together with the Carolinas Center for Injury Prevention, and with a group of 24 health professionals from 15 hospitals and health organizations. Their goal is to provide a statewide initiative to address how hospital staff, including physicians and nurses, can best educate families about creating safe sleep environments.
“Right now, hospital safe sleep education varies across the state. We are exploring ways to work together to create consistent safe sleep messages in the health community, educate parents, train staff, and also provide a role model for caregivers,” says Christine O'Meara, coordinator of the N.C. Back to Sleep Campaign housed at the North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation.
In addition to promoting the "back to sleep" position, the group addresses the need for educational outreach addressing infant sleep safety to Latinos, the bed sharing issue and the need for developing consistent safe sleep messages for all caregivers and parent educators. The message couldn’t come any sooner. A recent, local news headline reads that officials are investigating the death of child who may have suffocated while co-sleeping with a parent. Even if sleeping with one eye open, parents can miss the signs of infants struggling to breathe. It is a silent killer.
However, a new product on the market is sure to help ease parents’ anxieties. The Snuza Halo, will monitor a baby’s movements, send a pulse to stimulate any infant which does not register any movement (breathing) after 15 seconds, and an alert to parents after 20 seconds. This stimulant technology imitates the current technique used by hospital Neonatal Care Units across the nation. Unlike other movement monitoring devices which rest in the bed, this new product clips onto the baby’s diaper, near the stomach area. It is peace of mind for parents who are often in a state of sleep deprivation and hyper vigilance.
Parents who lose a child to SIDS often blame themselves and suffer enormous guilt. Thankfully there are several resources available to help families deal with this sort of loss. Kindermourn, is a Charlotte area organization which works with grieving families who have lost a family member. Executive Director Kelly Hamilton has been with the group for over two decades and although she has seen the number of parents dealing with a SIDS loss decline over the years, she still sees families struggling with this kind of loss on occasion.
Other groups have formed to help families deal with SIDS. In the past, there was a specific group formed in the Charlotte area, dedicated to helping families deal with the loss of a child through SIDS. But former founder Sherie Bradshaw says she did not have enough members to sustain a regular group format and disbanded the group after a seven year run. “The support group ceased meeting because of the need, or rather the numbers – a good thing,” she says. Bradshaw has worked closely with Footprints Ministry, another local organization which helps families who are grieving the loss of a child. This non-profit group doesn’t necessarily deal specifically with SIDS cases, but welcomes any parent who has lost a child, regardless of circumstances.
Today there are local partners of the First Candle (formerly known as SIDS Alliance) in Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh. For more information on SIDS visit this web site: http://sids-network.org/facts.htm.
Meaghan Clark is web editor for our sister publication Charlotte Parent.
Leave a Comment