The Aultman Birth Center started on phase two of its recently launched Safe Sleep campaign.

The Aultman Birth Center started on phase two of its recently launched Safe Sleep campaign.

The campaign is meant to educate parents on the safest way for their infants to sleep. The goal of the three-year project is aimed at decreasing infant mortality rates in Stark County.

The first part of the project focused on introducing the ABCs of Safe Sleep (Alone, Back and Crib). Babies are safest sleeping alone, on their back and in a crib.

Last year, Aultman teamed up with other Stark County hospitals in a project called Toward Health Resiliency for Infant Vitality and Equity (THRIVE). The second phase of the three-year project began this summer with the Cribs for Kids program.

Melinda Wiles, outreach and bereavement coordinator, said research has shown that Ohio infant deaths haven't dropped like they have nationally. In response, there are now statewide initiatives going on to better educate parents and to help decrease sleep-related infant death rates.

“There are currently six to seven sleep-related infant deaths per year in Stark County and we want to work to decrease that number,” Wiles said. “We decided at the birth center that working with the Safe Sleep campaign would allow us to have the greatest impact.”

According to 2014 research published on the Ohio Department of Health's website, sleep-related deaths are the leading cause of death for infants ages one month to one year old. More than three Ohio infant deaths each week are sleep related. Infant sleep-related deaths outnumber deaths of children of all ages from vehicular crashes.

The project started with Aultman modeling the ABCs in the birth center and then educating parents about safe sleep practices.

“Last year, we started by educating our nurses and modeling the ABCs in our birth center. We changed our practices so that new parents would see what we're doing and then repeat that model when they get their baby home,” Wiles said.

“Babies should sleep alone, not in a bed or on a couch with a parent or anyone else,” Wiles added. “Babies should be placed on their backs in a crib. There shouldn't be anything else in the crib with the baby. No pillows, blankets, stuffed animals or bumper pads.”

Aultman has been distributing HALO SleepSack, a wearable blanket for babies, safe sleep books and other education materials. Wiles said with the help of the Aultman Hippocrates Honor Society, the birth center was able to distribute 810 sleep sacks and 525 books to families.

The next phase of the project is the implementation of Cribs for Kids. It's part of a national initiative that provides Graco Pack'n Play portable cribs to families who can't afford a safe place for their babies to sleep.

“In addition to what we have been doing in the hospital, we are doing outreach through our Aultman Working on Wellness (WOW) program,” Wiles said. “To date, we've reached more than 3,000 community members. We'll continue to work with the Stark County Safe Sleep Taskforce. And, we are starting to distribute a Safe Sleep Toolkit.”

The Safe Sleep Toolkit includes educational information, a list of online resources, ABCs of Safe Sleep stickers and other items. Wiles said the feedback has been great from new parents and family members.

She said the Stark County Health Department is tracking data on the effectiveness of the program. The THRIVE partners are working on another initiative called Centering Pregnancy with group prenatal care to help reduce the rate of prenatal deaths. Moms come to their prenatal appointments in groups versus individually.

“The work of THRIVE and the Safe Sleep campaign is vital to saving babies' lives,” Wiles said. “Sleep-related deaths are preventable. Many new mothers just don't know how to properly put their babies to sleep and this initiative can help reach and educate many new parents.”