September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month

September is recognized as Infant Mortality Awareness Month and a chance to educate the public on the issue.

Infant mortality is defined as a death in a baby before his or her first birthday. Indiana is ranked 45th nationally for infant mortality percentages, according to the Indiana Minority Health Coalition.

The Hoosier state as a whole has a mortality rate of 6.7%, which is higher than the national rate of 6.1%.

In St. Joseph County, the numbers are even higher with a rate of 7.7%, according to the Indiana Minority Health Coalition.

Karl Nichols is the Executive Director of Community Wellness Partners in South Bend and said there are several reasons why the county has high numbers.

“Unsafe sleep, smoking, as well as lack of prenatal care are the three largest issues. St. Joe County has one of the highest smoking prevalence in the state," said Nichols.

He also said sleeping with your child can lead to accidental deaths.

“It’s room sharing and not bed sharing. Bringing that crib into the bedroom with you so they sleep next to you but not with you in the bed. I know so many times you want bumper pads and a blanket, and soft stuff for them to lay with but that’s not safe. An empty crib is the safest with the baby on their back,” Nichols added.

Additionally, African American mortality rates are higher in the state with a rate of 14.5% compared to 5.5% of Caucasian baby deaths.

Nichols said lack of early care for newborns could be part of the problem.

“African-American moms are less likely to breast feed and the healthiest way for a baby to grow up is breastfeeding, and even a child who breastfeeds for one week tends to have a healthier birth outcome than a baby that does not at all.”

Throughout the month of September, Community Wellness Partners have a display of onesies outside their building to represent the number of African-American baby deaths in the state from 2009-2013.

“We have about 41 onesies out there and each one represents 17.8 babies,” he said.

Community Wellness Partners serves as a resource center for families about various issues. They provide education and tools for expecting families about how to care for a newborn to proper sleeping techniques.

For more information on services they offer, call 574-232-4234.

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