FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - On average, between seven and eight out of every one thousand Allen County babies will die before their first birthday, that’s according to data from the Indiana State Department of Health.
In statewide comparisons, Allen County ranks near the top every year in infant mortality rates.
In 2020 alone, Fort Wayne Police spokeswoman Sgt. Sofira Rosales-Scatena say they were called to seven cases where unsafe infant sleeping practices resulted in death.
"We saw a pattern of, which has been troublesome for the past few years, co-sleeping incidents with parents whos infants die after they roll over or they suffocate in blankets, those kinds of things," Rosales-Scatenia said.
Jackie Martinez with Healthier Moms and Babies says things like sleeping in the same bed as an infant, over bundling your baby, putting blankets in pack and plays, and letting infants sleep on their stomachs are all things that put infants at risk.
Both Martinez and Rosales-Scatena says infant deaths due to unsafe sleeping habits is almost 100% perventable. Something Healthier Moms and Babies aims to teach new parents.
"We teach and practice safe sleep practices and many do their best, but some don’t know what they don’t know," Martinez says. "So, that is something we’re really trying to focus on, really reducing and eventually eliminating, those deaths."
Thanks to a grant from the Saint Joseph Community Health Foundation, Healthier Moms and Babies will be teaming up with Parkview Health and Wayne High School's New Tech Academy to implement new infant dolls to demonstrate to clients safe sleeping positions.
Martinez explained, "It’s going to be, from what I’ve been told, a clear baby with a trachea that you can see and it has more of a visual, a hands on, which it really is a really good approach when you’re doing teaching."
The dolls will simulate what happens if an infant spits up when they're asleep while lying on their stomachs and on their backs, allowing parents to learn, hands-on, why back sleeping is safer for an infant.
Healthier Moms andBabies says the new program is unique, saying Fort Wayne will be the only community in the country with this type tool. Hopefully, resulting in a better outcome for babies and families.
The new safe sleep pilot program is set to begin in February 2021, contact Healthier Moms and Babies for more information.