Cribs for Kids grant to help area infants sleep safely

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Gina Duwe
Friday, October 4, 2013

JANESVILLE—A new grant with matching funds from both Janesville hospitals will help the Rock County Health Department provide safe sleep environments for area infants.

Officials who review deaths of infants—babies under age 1—found 23 sleep-related deaths between 2005 and 2011 in Rock County.

“Even one death is too many when it's so preventable,” said Deb Erickson, public health nurse supervisor said.

The $2,500 grant from Cribs for Kids National Infant Safe Sleep Initiative will allow the health department to buy 60 to 65 Graco Pack 'n Plays and crib sheets to families who could not otherwise afford them.

The grant is being matched with donations from St. Mary's Janesville Hospital and Mercy Health System.

Of the 23 sleep-related deaths, Erickson said 50 percent of the infants had not been placed to sleep in a crib or bassinet, and 50 percent were put to sleep on their stomachs rather than on their backs, with some of the cases falling into both categories.

According to a 2007-08 state survey, only 52 percent of Wisconsin infants are consistently placed to sleep on their backs and in their own sleep space.

It has been a big issue in Milwaukee County, where the county medical examiner's office announced Monday the 11th baby this year died after she was exposed to unsafe sleep conditions, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A bill is being proposed that would make it a felony to harm or kill an infant by co-sleeping while intoxicated and would require new parents and high school students to receive safe-sleep training, the newspaper reported last week.

The Rock County Health Department has worked with area hospitals to send the same message about safe sleep and combat unsafe messages from family members, Erickson said.

“I think how your baby sleeps is something that's also influenced by your own parents and grandparents,” she said. “I think the generation before the parents now still have an impact. They say, 'Oh, my baby slept on his stomach and did fine,' or 'I slept with all five of my babies and they're OK.'”

Baby sections at many stores also offer bumper pads and big, ruffled comforters, she said.

“It's a different mindset to think, 'My baby needs that not to be in my crib to be safe,'” she said. “It's also been shocking to me to realize how many people in Rock County do not have a crib to put their baby in.”

A public health nurse delivers the cribs and shows families in the department's Healthy Families First program how to use them, along with safe-sleep habits. A nurse makes a second visit to make sure the crib is set up properly and is being used.

Cribs from the Cribs for Kids program contain a code that prevents parents from returning them to a store for cash, Erickson said.

The health department has given out 150 Pack 'n Plays in the last three years through grants and donations from Dean Health System, BMO Harris Bank and individuals.

The collaboration this year between St. Mary's and Mercy to match the grant is great, Erickson said.

“It's always good to see competitors working together to bring about that good outcome,” she said.

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