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Take Back our Babies

Take a stand. Raise Your Voice. Our Children Matter. New Study Shows Black Babies Die 3X More Often from Unsafe Sleeping; Our Black Boys Most at Risk
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New Study Shows Black Babies Die 3X More Often from Unsafe Sleeping; Our Black Boys Most at Risk

By Tara Pringle Jefferson 
 
A new study released today in the journal Pediatrics and reported in today’s Washington Post shows that after a period of decline, infant deaths blamed on accidental strangulation and suffocation in bed have increased sharply in the United States, with African Americans at the highest rates. An analysis of death certificates nationwide found that the rate of fatalities attributed to unintentional suffocation and strangulation in the first year of life quadrupled over all between 1984 and 2004. 
While the trend is rising overall, despite a previous decline, the new study says the death rate from accidental strangulation and suffocation was 27.3 per 100,000 live births among African Americans, compared with 8.5 among whites, with Black boys younger than 4 months being the most vulnerable.  These deaths can occur when a sleeping parent rolls on top of a baby, a pillow falls on an infant’s face, a blanket gets wrapped around the child’s neck or when the baby gets wedged between a mattress and a wall.
This is the latest statistic that serves as a wake up call to Black mothers. For years, our children have disproportionately fell victim to SIDS and other preventable deaths. There is something we can do to ensure our babies sleep safely and thrive. First, we must educate ourselves.  
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a mysterious condition that takes the lives of more than 2,000 infants annually, with SIDS rates in the African-American community twice as high as other racial groups. It primarily occurs during the infant’s first year of life, and it’s most common between 2 and 4 months of age. 
While researchers don’t know what causes SIDS, they have identified several risk factors that may contribute to its prevalence. One of the biggest risk factors is the baby’s sleep position. In the 1990s, the Back to Sleep program was introduced, which encourages moms and other caregivers to place babies on their back to sleep.  Since then, the SIDS rate has been reduced by more than 50 percent. 
“In the African-American community, a lot of parents and grandparents still don’t believe in putting the babies on their back to sleep,” says Stacy Scott, a community health and education coordinator with the SIDS Network. She says 15 percent of black moms still put their babies to sleep on their stomach because that’s the way they had been raised and the advice they’ve been given from their parents and other peers.  
These same safe sleeping strategies will also prevent any accidental deaths from suffocation and strangulation. “We have to educate our mothers and grandmothers, older relatives and older caregivers who will put our babies to sleep on their stomachs because that’s what they know. My grandmother has told me that the baby will sleep longer or not get hungry as fast when on the stomach,” says Kimberly Seals Allers, founder and editor in chief of MochaManual.com. “I’ve had to gently teach her the proper way to put my babies to sleep.”  
 “Moms have to have that conversation even before the baby is born,&rdqu
o; she says. “Tell anyone who will be watching the baby that the baby must sleep on its back.” 
Good prenatal care is essential to reducing the risk of SIDS, Scott says. African-American women have the highest rates of low-birth weight babies, which puts our babies at the higher risk for SIDS. 
Scott says that for babies who routinely sleep on their backs at home, and then are placed on their stomachs by another caregiver, the risks of SIDS increases exponentially. 
Other reasons for higher SIDS rates in our community include co-sleeping and the mother’s stress level. 
There is no way to prevent SIDS, but moms can take steps to reduce the risk for their little one.
1) Make sure you put the child to sleep on his or her back. 
2) Remove all blankets, bumper pads, and stuffed animals from the crib. These can pose a suffocation risk.
3) If you are worried about the baby being cold during the night, you can dress him or her in a wearable blanket that will keep them toasty. If you insist on covering him or her with a blanket, tuck in the blanket at the bottom of the crib, with the baby’s head facing the opposite end. 
4) Sleeping with a fan on in the room has been shown to help reduce the number of SIDS cases.  Inadequate room ventilation might cause the pooling of carbon dioxide around the infants nose and mouth, some experts say, increasing the likelihood of rebreathing (breathing exhaled air). Having a fan blowing during sleep moves air around the room and may potentially reduce the risk of SIDS. 
5)  Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around the baby. 
6) Giving your baby a pacifier to fall asleep with has also been shown to reduce the risk.
To learn more and tell others, check out this information from the Back to Sleep Campaign, sponsored by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the SIDS Alliance, and the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs. 
    

 

 

   
 

 


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