Guest opinion: Keeping babies safe a priority in Garfield County |

Guest opinion: Keeping babies safe a priority in Garfield County

Mason Hohstadt

A collective effort to ensure the safety of babies in Garfield County is underway, and officials have set their sights on educating the community about proper sleeping conditions for infants.

In 2014, the Garfield County Child Fatality Prevention Team was established. Under Colorado law, child fatality reviews have been transferred from the state health department to local and regional teams. The county’s team is led by Garfield County Public Health, and includes representatives from the county attorney’s office, Ninth Judicial District Attorney’s Office, hospitals, medical providers, law enforcement, the county coroner’s office, emergency services, health and human services, and school districts.

The team confidentially reviews child deaths in Garfield County that may have been preventable. While the team examines factors that contributed to a child’s death, the overarching goal is to identify measures that could avert future fatalities. This allows the team to implement prevention initiatives that are relevant to Garfield County.

Current efforts are geared toward safe sleep for babies. The Garfield County Safe Sleep Task Force was created in order to promote awareness and measures to prevent infant sleep-related deaths. The task force has partnered with providers and other organizations that serve families with infants to promote consistent messaging around safe sleep, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. These guidelines are based on the most recent research.

Another facet of this campaign is to provide necessary safe-sleep products to families in need. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 3,500 infants annually in the United States succumb to sleep-related deaths. While not all sudden infant deaths are preventable, risk can be greatly reduced by ensuring safe sleep conditions.

Following simple guidelines can protect babies and give parents peace of mind. In 2010, Colorado ranked first in the nation for putting babies to sleep on their backs. While this is to be applauded, it is important to recognize other measures that can ensure safe sleep conditions for babies, as recommended by the NIH:

• Babies should always sleep on their backs, at nighttime and naptime. Tummy and side sleeping are not safe.

• Use a safety-approved crib or portable play yard with a firm mattress and a tight-fitting sheet. Room-share with your baby for at least the first six months by making sure the crib is near your bed.

• Do not share a bed or couch with your baby. Make sure your baby has its own separate sleep space. Never let your baby sleep on soft surfaces, such as adult beds, waterbeds, sofas, chairs, comforters or sheepskins.

• Keep all soft bedding out of your baby’s crib. This includes loose bedding, stuffed animals and bumper pads.

• Avoid overheating. Dress your baby like you would dress and keep the room temperature comfortable, not too warm.

• Pregnant women should receive regular prenatal care.

• Do not smoke during or after pregnancy, and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. These put babies at a greater risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome.

• Avoid alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth.

• Breastfeeding is recommended.

• Use a pacifier at naptime and nighttime after breastfeeding is established.

• Do not use commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS, such as wedges and positioners. None have proven safe or effective.

• Encourage supervised tummy time when your baby is awake to avoid flat spots on the back of their heads, and to strengthen their upper torsos and necks.

• All babies should be immunized in accordance with American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

Car seats ALSO A FOCUS

Since its formation, the Child Fatality Prevention Team has also spearheaded a child passenger safety seat campaign to promote appropriate infant, toddler, and child car seat usage. This includes working with community partners to increase the number of certified car seat technicians available, and the distribution of promotional materials to increase awareness about the proper use of child passenger seats.

Public Health staff and other partners continue this effort to educate county residents, so that more of our most vulnerable citizens are protected when riding in vehicles.

Watch for tips in the coming weeks about safe sleep. For more information surrounding safe sleep considerations, contact Mason Hohstadt, Garfield County public health specialist, at 970-665-6370.

Martin Hohstadt is with the Garfield County Child Fatality Prevention Team.

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