County’s ‘sleep sacks’ a prevention tool against SIDS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Thanks to donations from five Marion businesses, infants in Marion County will be at slightly less risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The Healthy Start program of the Marion County Health Department is now distributing wearable blankets to new parents.

Commonly called a sleep sack, a wearable blanket looks like a miniature sleeping bag with holes for an infant’s arms and head.

Sleep sacks enable infants to sleep on their backs without the danger of kicking blankets over their faces during the night.

“Basically, we promote you put baby on its back to sleep,” said Sondra Mayfield, Healthy Start home visitor for the county.

Placing an infant on its back for sleeping is believed to reduce the threat of SIDS, but covering an infant with a loose blanket creates a potential danger of a different kind.

“They used to say the only thing that should be in your baby’s crib is your baby with her blanket,” Mayfield said. “Now they know that babies can kick that blanket up over their face and rebreathe already-breathed air.

“We don’t want kids to do that.

“In a sleep sack, you just put them in a little long-sleeved shirt, and they can kick and move all around-but this will never go up around their face,” she said.

Mayfield said she applied for a grant in March to purchase sleep sacks, but the application was turned down.

Still convinced of the value of the project, she went to her supervisor, Diedre Serene, county health nurse.

“I said, ‘I feel so strongly about this project, can I go into the community and ask for donations?’ She said, ‘Go for it.’ The first five (businesses) I went to gave me enough money to buy these for the rest of the year.”

Those donors were Western Associates, Marion County Attorney Dan Baldwin, Marion Kiwanis Club, Sanders Electric and Tampa State Bank.

Their donations were sufficient to buy 70 blankets.

Just this week, Mayfield said she received word that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has approved a new grant application that will enable her to buy 120 more blankets-enough for all of 2005.

Mayfield said she receives referrals from area hospitals and clinics about newborns in the county. But she said another fertile source for information are other new mothers.

“I came over here to visit a girl in Hillsboro and she gave me five names that I did not know about,” Mayfield said. “So, I asked her if I could have her permission to call these girls, and she said fine.”

One of those names was Amy Jordan. She and husband Jeremy welcomed Alice into their household four weeks ago.

Mayfield delivered Alice’s sleep sack-and some information about SIDS-on Tuesday.

“We were aware of SIDS, but we hadn’t heard of the sleep sack as a way to help prevent that,” Amy said. “We were kind of amazed that the Marion County Health Department would be so willing to offer us this information and the sleep sack for free.

“We’re real grateful for that and feel better informed.”

At only 7 pounds, Alice is still too small for a sleep sack. Infants need to weigh between 10 and 18 pounds, according to the manufacturer.

SIDS is the major cause of death in babies from 1 month to 1 year of age, but researchers are still trying to figure out why it occurs.

“Basically, they don’t know what causes it so they can’t prevent it,” Mayfield said. “But they do know (sleeping on their back) is the safest way for babies to sleep. That’s why we want to get at least one of these to every new parent we see.”

Anyone who has a new baby in the home, or knows the name of a parent in Marion County who does, can contact Mayfield about a receiving sleep sack by calling 620-382-2550 or 800-305-8848.

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