Safe Sleep Sabbath to Prevent Infant Deaths

Monday, September 10, 2012

Part I: Clergy Luncheon with Milwaukee Mayor on Wednesday, September 12

Milwaukee, WI, September 10, 2012 – Columbia St. Mary's is pleased to sponsor the Second Annual Safe Sleep Sabbath in partnership with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the City of Milwaukee Health Department, and area churches including the Church of God in Christ of the Northwest Jurisdiction, Common Ground and Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, to help bring the message of infant safe sleep practices where it is needed most.

The focus of this year's Safe Sleep Sabbath is the topic of secondhand smoke and its link to infant deaths. In 2011, secondhand smoke was a significant factor in the deaths of 31 infants in Milwaukee.

According to the City of Milwaukee Health Department, 48 Milwaukee infants died of SIDS or accidental suffocation between 2009 and 2011. Of those 48 deaths:

  • 32 were sharing a bed with parents, other children or a caregiver.
  • 31 were exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes.
  • 41 were sleeping on or near adult pillows or were put to sleep with blankets, quilts or stuffed animals.
  • 18 had been placed on their stomachs or sides to sleep.
  • 11 were sleeping on a couch, chair, car seat or swing.
  • 13 caregivers were using drugs or alcohol.

(Note: many infants had multiple risk factors. 2011 data is preliminary.)

“Based on preliminary information, infant deaths due to unsafe sleep practices have not declined in Milwaukee since last year,” said Bill Solberg, Director of Community Services for Columbia St. Mary's. “These deaths are not only devastating, but they were preventable.”

According to Solberg though, there does seem to be a positive trend. “As our parish nurses and community health workers speak to people in the community, it is clear that more people are aware of the basic safe sleep recommendations and are changing their behavior,” he said.

Solberg added that requests to the Milwaukee Health Department and area hospitals for Pack 'n Play cribs have increased markedly in the past year. Pack 'n Play cribs help create a safe environment for infants.

Solberg and other community leaders feel strongly that area churches are key in helping to communicate the importance of safe sleep practices to help prevent needless infant deaths in our community. “In many communities in Milwaukee, the church plays a pivotal role,” said Solberg. “It is a trusted gathering spot, a source of spiritual fulfillment as well as practical instruction. It is the perfect venue in which to raise awareness about safe sleep practices and therefore, the Safe Sleep Sabbath helps keep this important health issue top of mind.”

The Safe Sleep Sabbath program has two phases. The first occurs on September 12th, when area clergy will attend a luncheon at Columbia St. Mary's Hospital Milwaukee to learn about safe sleep practices. Next, on October 14th, the participating clergy will spread these life-saving lessons to their congregations during a city-wide Safe Sleep Sabbath. The specific events are as follows:

Safe Sleep Sabbath Clergy Luncheon

  • Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
  • Time: 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m
  • Location: Columbia St. Mary‟s Hospital Milwaukee, Water Tower Medical Commons, 2350 N. Lake Drive, Milwaukee Convenient parking in front of building.
  • Speakers include: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; Milwaukee Health Commissioner Bevan Baker; Bill Solberg, Columbia St. Mary's Director of Community Services; Carl K. Oliver, Health Educator with the Wisconsin Women's Health Foundation which sponsors First Breath, a smoking cessation program

Safe Sleep Sabbath

  • Date: Sunday, October 14, 2012
  • Event: Clergy promote infant safe sleep practices during Sunday services.

In 2011, the program's first year, more than 80 pastors participated in the Safe Sleep Sabbath, representing churches and faiths throughout the Milwaukee area.

To help prevent infant death, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the City of Milwaukee Health Department make the following recommendations:

  • Share a room with your baby, not a bed.
  • A crib, bassinet or Pack 'n Play® should not have pillows, blankets, quilts, top sheets, bumper pads or toys in it.
  • Do not expose a baby to secondhand smoke, including marijuana.
  • Only place a baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Never place a baby to sleep on a couch, chair, or in a bouncy seat or car seat.
  • Never care for a baby if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, including certain prescription drugs.

Columbia St. Mary's Foundation supports Columbia St. Mary's efforts to reduce Milwaukee's tragic infant mortality rate through the Healthy Birth Initiatives Program.

The Healthy Birth Initiatives Program focuses on delivering a Safe Sleep Education Campaign, distributing Pack 'n Play cribs to families that cannot afford beds for their infants, promoting the annual Safe Sleep Sabbath and supporting Blanket of Love, a community-based outreach program for at-risk pregnant African-American and Hispanic women.

Blanket of Love wraps expectant mothers in a protective blanket of education and support from prenatal care through early parenthood. The effort, which was started in 2005, serves about 50 women and their families yearly. All babies within the Blanket of Love Program have been born full-term and healthy, without need of intensive-care hospital services.

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