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Safe sleeping key to fighting infant mortality

Published 9:45am Wednesday, January 16, 2013

We are entering the peak season for SIDS deaths, so now is the time to intensify the Safe Sleep/Back-to-Sleep message.

Ohio’s first infant mortality summit was held Wednesday, Nov. 28, with the theme of “Turning up the Volume on Infant Mortality: Every Baby Matters.”

The infant mortality (IM) rate is the number of live-born babies who die before their first birthday per 1,000. The IM rate is an important measure of how well a society cares for its women and babies, and the overall health of a society.

For 2011, Ohio’s infant mortality rate is 7.9, essentially unimproved for over a decade and slightly worse than 2010; whites — 6.3, African Americans — 15.8, more than twice the rate for whites.

Ohio’s IM rate is higher than most states, most surrounding states, and the U.S. rate. About three babies die each day in Ohio (about one baby dies every eight hours).

These recommendations for safe infant sleep were published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics:


Level A Recommendations

• Healthy babies sleep safest on their back for every sleep

• Use a firm sleep surface

•Room-sharing without bed-sharing is recommended

• Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib (if a light blanket is needed, securely tuck all sides along the bottom half of crib, below baby’s arms)

• Pregnant women should receive regular prenatal care

• Avoid smoke exposure during pregnancy and after birth

• Breastfeeding is recommended

• Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime

• Avoid overheating

• Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy for reducing the risk of SIDS


Level B Recommendations

• Infants should be immunized in accordance with recommendations of the AP and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

• Avoid commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS

• Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended to facilitate development and to minimize development of positional plagiocephaly (asymmetrical flattening of the skull)

Lawrence County’s infant mortality for 2011 was the same as the state rate 7.9. Infant death is way too far-reaching a problem for just public health and medicine to solve; it’s everybody’s problem, and we can only solve it by working together at the community level.

For more information go to: or call the Lawrence County Health Department at 532-3962.

January is also National Birth Defects Prevention Month and National Folic Acid Awareness Week was January 6-12, 2013. Maintaining adequate folic acid is important for the prevention of birth defects and good health in women of childbearing age.


Maxine Lewis is the health educator at the Lawrence County Health Department. She can be reached at (740) 532-3962.

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