Lowndes County officials looking to curb rising rate of infant deaths

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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
May 13, 2019

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Health officials are trying to educate more parents and bring down some troubling numbers in Lowndes County.

Program staff with the Department of Public Health calls the county a "hot spot," for sudden infant deaths. Many of those are caused by co-sleeping or unsafe cribs.

On Monday night, the Lowndes County Child Fatality Review Committee will be meeting with medical professionals and representatives with the Department of Public Health for a 'Safe Sleep Saves Lives' dinner.

The goal is to get everybody working together to try and prevent infant deaths because of unsafe sleep practices.

Lowndes County officials say in the last five years, at least 20 infants have died because of unsafe sleeping, most commonly caused by co-sleeping. All of those deaths could have been prevented.

Organizers are finding news ways to teach parents the infant sleeping "ABC's:" Alone, on their backs, in a safe crib.

"The first line of defense of protecting children are the parents. We're just wanting to let the professionals, the doctors and pediatricians, to know that these are things that may be basic and fundamental," said District Attorney Brad Shealy. "But, there are some people who don't know them and we need to make sure that they understand the ABC's."

As part of the state's 'Safe to Sleep Campaign,' South Georgia Medical Center begins educating new parents about safe sleep before they give birth, using things like videos and books.

The hospital then provides resources for every new mother to take home, like books, a safe sleep sack and a onesie labeled 'this side up,' to remind parents to lay children on their backs.

"There are a lot of moms who are under-informed regarding safe sleep practices," said Wendy Livingston, Nurse Practitioner at SGMC. "We enforce and reinforce, even on a daily basis when we go in to the rooms, that the baby needs to be in the bassinet, alone in the bassinet, with no extra blankets or toys."

Because this is their first meeting, officials say it's going to be a lot of brainstorming on what to do next, like hanging signs on billboards to help better educate parents.

The meeting is happening on Monday at 6 p.m.

The Department of Public Health's "Baby Luv" program is hosting a free information session for pregnant mothers on May 30.