Safe Sleeping Practices Save Lives

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Panama City - Healthy Start of Bay, Franklin, and Gulf Counties is trying to spread the message that unsafe sleeping practices can be deadly for an infant. Eight babies have died in Bay County in just the last 10 months because of suffocation caused by co-sleeping or other dangerous situations.

From the toys to the rocker, Cheryl Castle's nursery is picture perfect. "We did this wall to look like a baseball," she explained. But it's not quite ready for her soon-to-arrive little slugger, just. "I'm going to go ahead and remove these today because Sean will be here in just a couple of weeks," said Cheryl as she untied the crib bumpers. Thanks to Healthy Start, Cheryl knows crib bumpers and other soft items are a suffocation risk. In fact, at Healthy Start they say the "Ugliest Crib is the Safest Crib," that means no bumper pads, no pillows, no stuffed animals, and no blankets.

The organization is desperate to spread the word about safe sleeping practices after 8 babies died in Bay County in less than a year. Six of the deaths occurred while the infant was in the parents bed. "We've had a rash of unsafe sleeping demises," said Sharon Owens of Healthy Start. "People have the message that on their back is fine, but they don't have the message that room-sharing is preferable over co-sleeping. You could roll over, you could have a pillow dislodge, you could have a comforter ball up and the baby's airways are trapped and there is suffocation," said Owens.

Thanks to a new state program, Healthy Start now works with moms at their doctor's office, during their prenatal check-ups. "Education is the key to letting them know that this can happen in a split second," said Alicia Hedgecock, a patient advocate with Healthy Start. "It doesn't matter if you've done something in the past, it's always better to have your baby on their back in a safe environment in a crib. We know that it only takes one time to have a preventable death," said Dr. Tricia Percy who practices at "All About Women" OB/GYN in Panama City.

For Cheryl, the reminder to put her new arrival on his back to sleep, in an empty crib, gives her peace of mind she'll be doing what's best to help him grow up to be an All-Star.

If you need help providing a safe sleeping environment for your baby, call Healthy Start at 1-800-895-9506.