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Now I Know My ABC’s… for Safe Sleep!

In late September, Dayton Children’s hosted some of our state legislators from the Ohio Senate Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee as they toured the state to learn more about infant mortality. Today, Senator Shannon Jones shares some of the lessons she learned on that tour.

Now I Know My ABC’s… for Safe Sleep!
Guest Blogger: State Senator Shannon Jones, Springboro

Last month, you may remember that I wrote about Ohio’s abysmal infant mortality rate and what we are doing at the Statehouse to reverse this painful trend.

This month, as we recognize National Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month, I can think of no better time to discuss some of what the Ohio Senate Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee has learned over the last few months about the risk factors associated with SIDS and other sleep-related deaths.

Beginning in August, Senator Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) and I led a series of field hearings to learn from communities across the state about the opportunities they have identified to combat infant mortality.  We had wonderful conversations with passionate community leaders, healthcare professionals, and citizens who are committed to improving the health outcomes of our sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, and our nieces and nephews.

Through these conversations, we have learned about the prevalence of a type of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 4,200 sudden unexpected infant deaths per year in the United States.  Half of these tragic deaths are caused by SIDS, making it the leading cause of death among infants aged 1–12 months and the third overall leading cause of infant mortality in the United States.  The 2012 Ohio Child Fatality Review (CFR) report cites there were 148 sleep-related deaths in 2010.  From 2006-2010, 42 percent of all infant deaths after the first month of life were sleep-related.

As a mother, a legislator, and a citizen of Ohio, I know we can do better.

To raise awareness of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), I have introduced Senate Bill 198.  This piece of legislation will designate the month of October in the state of Ohio as “SIDS Awareness Month.”

More importantly, S.B. 198 recognizes the Ohio families I have had the privilege of meeting along the committee’s travels, and all of those who have had experienced the heartache of losing an infant due to SIDS or other sudden unexpected death.  Their stories have resonated with me, and I am encouraged by the commitment our children’s hospitals, as well as our community health partners, have devoted to improving the quality of life for all, especially our most vulnerable.

Within these stories, I heard a lot about the importance of creating safe sleep environments to prevent SIDS as well as other sleep-related deaths.  There are several simple steps we can take as parents, grandparents, and caretakers to keep babies safe as they sleep:

Remembering the important steps to safe infant sleep is as easy as ABC!

  • Alone. A child is safest when they are sleeping by themselves, not in bed with adults or other children. Babies are small and can be put at risk by others around them in the bed – especially when those people are tired and groggy.
  • Back. A baby should always be placed on their back. This is different than what was taught just a few decades ago, but studies show that infants are fare safer when they are placed on their back and can breathe freely.
  • Crib. Babies need cribs. A virtually empty crib where babies are safest because they are safe from rolling and falling and they aren’t surrounded by blankets, pillows, and other objects that might cause breathing problems if the baby moves in the night.

We know that sleep-related deaths are preventable.  In fact, the CFR report also cites that if we were able to prevent all sleep-related deaths, the Ohio infant mortality rate for 2010 would have been reduced from 7.7 to 6.6 deaths per 1,000 live births.

So I invite you to join me in raising awareness during SIDS Awareness Month by telling your sons and daughters, parents, friends, and neighbors about the ABCs of safe sleep. Working together, I know we can make sure every child celebrates his or her first birthday.

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