Program trains first responders to look out for unsafe infant sleep

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – A new program to train first responders on what safe infant sleep looks like is in its beginning stages.

The State of Ohio is trying to improve infant mortality numbers so more babies make it to their first birthday. There were three infant sleep-related deaths in Mahoning County last year. The year before that, there were five.

First responders are on the front lines and see a lot.

“Our first responders, though, get that candid look because they’re going in to provide an emergency service and so the home is normally how it really is for folks,” said Stephanie Weigel, injury prevention coalition coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman.

Making sure parents have a safe place for their baby to sleep is a top priority for the health department.

Youngstown City first responders will be the first to try the program, which will be rolled out to the tri-county area by the end of the summer or early fall. They’ll go through special training to help them determine if babies have a safe sleep environment or not.

“They might see that there’s a car seat on the floor and there’s some infant formula on the counter, but I don’t notice there’s a crib, a bassinet, or a Pack ‘n Play anywhere,” Weigel said. “So they’re going to ask mom and dad, ‘Where is baby sleeping?'”

Grant money from the Child Injury Action Group will help pay for the training.

If a parent doesn’t have a safe sleep environment, the first responder will give them a card to connect them with Cribs for Kids — a national program offering free Pack ‘n Plays for pregnant women and new mothers.

Locally, the program is with the Mahoning County District Board of Health.

“In 2016, we have given away 244 Pack ‘n Plays and to date, from January and February, we’ve given out 31 Pack ‘n Plays,” Erica Horner said.

Women who are at least 32 weeks pregnant or have a baby up to 12 months or under 30 pounds can qualify for a free Pack ‘n Play. The program follows WIC income guidelines.

The Baby Box Company provides free cardboard boxes to mothers who need a safe sleep environment for their babies.
The Baby Box Company

The Baby Box Co. also provides free sleep environments to parents. Baby Boxes are made of cardboard and come with a mattress. The company said the boxes are safe for babies up to eight months old to sleep in.

It wants to work with the state because of Ohio’s disparate infant mortality rates, with black babies dying at higher rates than white babies.

The Baby Box Co. is currently working with University Hospitals in Cleveland.

Akron Children’s Hospital said the Baby Box Company is not part of the statewide partnership.

“Currently, there’s really insufficient data to determine if the cardboard box has any direct effect on infant mortality so currently, we’re really working extensively with the Cribs for Kids program,” Weigel said.

The Baby Box Co. said right now, there is no data to show its boxes are effective in the U.S.

However, it said the boxes meet or exceed testing standards, saying there is no difference between a Baby Box and a bassinet with legs. For those who prefer legs on a baby bed, The Baby Box Co. will be offering stands for the boxes this summer.

Even if a baby has a place to sleep, a big part of creating a safe sleep environment is how they are put in the crib.

Weigel said to follow the ABC rule:

“Alone, on their Back, in an empty Crib. Every time they sleep, so naptime and bedtime.”

She said following those guidelines dramatically reduced the incidents of sleep-related death and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).