St. Joseph County reports a 'significant' decrease in Infant Sudden Unexpected Deaths

NOW: St. Joseph County reports a ’significant’ decrease in Infant Sudden Unexpected Deaths


SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- The St. Joseph County Health Department reports a significant decrease in sudden infant unexpected deaths.

In 2017, 10 infants died unexpected and suddenly in the county due to unsafe sleeping conditions, according to the health department. In 2018, only one infant has died because of sudden infant unexpected death.

“We do not want one more family to experience the devastating loss of their baby,” the health department wrote in a release to media.

Kelli Brien with Community Wellness Partners in South Bend said her organization has been working with the health department to promote the ‘Stay Close, Sleep Apart’ initiative. The initiative states that babies should sleep:

  • In your room,
  • Alone in their own crib, bassinet, or pack and play or baby box,
  • On their back, without blankets, pillows, or toys.

“Safe sleep is alone on their back, in the crib, period nothing else,” said Brien.

Brien said the infant deaths the county sees often occur in the 46628 zip code. She said many minority families live in this area where a lot of the deaths occur.

“It kind of frightened me a little bit, because it makes you think like ‘wow, I’m grateful,’” said Barbara Jones, a South Bend mother. “It could happen to anyone.”

Jones is a new mom and is also expecting her second child. She said she had to make changes after learning about infants who have died from overheating, being smothered, and being lodged in between the bed and the wall.

“Anyone can lose their child through something so simple as making sure their child is sleeping on their back, making sure the room is cool for them, making sure they’re in a smoke free environment,” she said. “You know reducing risks.”

Brien said she attributes the decrease in sudden infant unexpected deaths caused by unsafe sleep conditions to the amount of information the health department and CWP have shared with parents.

“What we’ve done is collaborate with that team to work on really getting the ‘Safe Sleep’ message out,” Brien said.

Early in the year, CWP used visuals to raise awareness about infant deaths in South Bend. In front of their building on Lincoln Way West, staff put onesies to represent a baby that died suddenly, without an explanation.

“It’s really about letting people know that African American babies are dying three times more than any other baby,” Brien said.

The county health department called the year to year infant death decrease “significant” and “encouraging,” but said it wants to continue to remind parents babies should ‘Stay Close, Sleep Apart.’

“Knowing what safe sleep is and following those rules alone on the back and in the crib is number one,” Brien said.


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