Sleep-related infant deaths on the rise in St. Joseph County

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The number of sleep-related infant deaths in St. Joseph County is increasing.

Now, doctors and community organizations are speaking out about safe-sleep practices.

This year, there have already been five sudden unexplained infant deaths in St. Joseph County.

While doctors can't be 100-percent sure of what caused the deaths, they suspect it was unsafe sleep practices.

Most of the deaths involved the infant sleeping in an adult bed with another person.

New parents get a lot of different advice.

"It's a scary thing being a new parent or even a second, third, or fourth time parent because it does seem like you get conflicting opinions from people. It's scary because you're in charge of this vulnerable life,” said pediatrician, Dr. Tom Soisson.

When it comes to sleeping, Dr. Soisson says the research is clear-- it's the ABC’s of sleep. The baby should be alone, on their back, and in a crib with nothing else.

But professionals say the word isn't always getting through to mothers.

"It is nice to fall asleep with your baby. It's a nice, comforting thing so it feels right. But because it feels right doesn't mean it's a good idea,” Dr. Soisson said.

"There's a generation of 'we did it, and you were fine. You turned out fine.' Yes, there's definitely that traditional, we all turned out fine this is what we do. That culture is there,” said Kelli Brien with Community Wellness Partners.

Brien says that culture can be deadly. In the first of half of 2017, there have been as many sleep-related infant deaths in St. Joseph County as all of 2016.

"It's scary. It's scary. Everyone is an uproar because we know the information and it's out there, and it's like how do we get it to these families as quickly as possible,” Brien said.

Community Wellness Partners is trying to combat those numbers by increasing the BabyBox program. Anyone in the community who takes care of an infant can receive a BabyBox for free.

The box is a safe space for a child to sleep.

The Safe Sleep program is also coming back to Indiana. The program provides cribs to new mothers.

Brien says education is the key.

"It's not difficult. It's very simple, and it's attainable. It's just a matter of opening up and being receptive to that information,” she said.

The BabyBoxes are currently on back order, but Community Wellness Partners has a shipment coming in within the next few weeks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests following these safe sleeping practices:

1. Infants always sleeping on their back on a firm mattress designed for infants (such as in a crib, pack and play, bassinet or baby box).

2. No soft toys, bumper pads or blankets in the crib or other sleep space.

3. No sleeping in an adult bed alone or with another person in the bed.

4. No use of a car seat, bouncy seat, stroller, infant carrier, sofa or armchair for sleep. If your baby falls asleep in one of these places, move them to their crib or other safe sleep space.

5. No smoking around your baby or in your home.

6. DO put infant's crib (or designated safe sleep space) in the parent's room as this IS safe and often beneficial to both infant and new parents.

7. DO use these safe sleep steps at least until your baby's first birthday.

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