In Summit County, the top three causes of infant mortality are prematurity, unsafe sleeping environments and practices, and birth defects. However, unlike deaths due to prematurity or birth defects, those caused by unsafe sleep are 100% preventable. Black infants are also at the greatest risk.
“Non-Hispanic, Black infants are 2.5 to 3 times more likely to die than non-Hispanic, White infants,” said Heather Trnka, supervisor of the injury prevention coalition at Akron Children’s Hospital. “While our efforts to promote safe sleep are focused on all races and ethnicities, there is special attention placed on supporting Black mothers, who are losing their babies at a much higher rate.”
One of the ways we are promoting infant vitality among the Black community is through Army of Moms, a new pilot program in External Affairs.
“Through Army of Moms we are creating a community of mothers to promote safe sleep and overcome generational challenges,” said Heather. “Women are hearing from other women who look like them and are mothers too.”
The program promotes the ABCs of safe sleep – Babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs and in an empty Crib. It also adds D and E – Don’t smoke and Educate everyone. Ten moms have been recruited for the pilot, which aims to create a groundswell by teaching them to go out and educate other moms and family members.
“I’m excited about the community-building part of the program. I feel these mothers are truly going to make an impact because they’re passionate and want to support others around them, and that’s the first step of change,” said Aries Brown, regional advocacy, community health and infant vitality coordinator. “Our first session went really well, and I’ve received over 20 referrals and multiple mothers contacting me about the program. So, if that can happen from just 10 moms, just think about the impact this program will have when more mothers join.”
“We know the ABCs of safe sleep can be hard, especially in the first few weeks and months if mom and baby aren’t sleeping well,” said Heather. “These moms have been in their shoes and can give them tips to make it through.”
Akron Children’s other efforts surrounding safe sleep include:
- Cribs for Kids, which provides free pack ‘n plays to eligible families to ensure their babies have a safe place to sleep.
- Safe Sleep Academy, online educational courses regarding safe sleep for three distinct audiences, including families and caregivers, community health workers and home visitors, and physicians and health care professionals. To learn more, visit safesleepforbabies.org.
“Through these programs, we want to eliminate disparities and ensure that safe sleep is practiced 100% of the time, so we can make an impact by helping more babies reach their first birthday,” said Heather.