So many tragic things happen in our communities every single day, but organizations like Healthcare Foundation of La Porte (HFL) actively fight to make our communities safer, healthier places. October is Safe Infant Sleep Month, and to help initiate the month of awareness, HFL and its Partners for Healthier Babies Council (PHB) held a kickoff event on Thursday, September 29. More than 50 community leaders and members gathered to share information and learn about safe sleeping habits for babies so that they could go out into the community and make a difference.
The kickoff event exposed people to the causes of infant deaths and helped them understand that long-developed habits such as co-sleeping, allowing babies to sleep on their stomachs, and letting babies sleep with pillows, blankets, and other things in their cribs are dangerous.
“In the old days we used to let babies sleep on their stomachs because parents feared that the baby would regurgitate and aspirate, but we now know that isn’t what happens. As time has gone, we’ve learned more and more about safe sleeping,” said Dr. Gary Wheeland, retired family physician and HFL Board Member.
The speakers at the event stressed that this month they want everyone to learn and share the ABCs of sleep—making sure babies sleep alone, placing babies to sleep on their backs, and putting babies in safe cribs. Alone in their crib means without other blankets, toys, pillows, etc.. It does not mean without supervision of their parent or in another room. Room-sharing is encouraged through at least six months of age. Bed-sharing is to be avoided, as it increases the chance of suffocation, strangulation, and SIDS.
“I want people to understand the importance of safe sleep not only in the home, but wherever that child is—whether it’s a daycare, a grandparent’s house, an aunt or uncle’s house, wherever. I want everyone to know that when that baby is asleep it needs to be observed, it needs to be on its back, and it needs to be alone in a crib,” said Dr. Wheeland.
However, Safe Sleep Month isn’t just about spreading awareness about infant health. The month is also meant to help people discover resources and organizations in their community that can help them take better care of their babies. The Diapering Together To Raise Awareness challenge, a challenge for community members and business leaders to donate diapers to selected organizations, will be a huge focus of the month and will help countless people take care of their babies. A key part of the challenge is the awareness piece; when picking up the donated diapers, parents will learn safe sleep practices first-hand from trusted agencies that have a baby’s life as a priority.
In fact, Dr. Wheeland’s favorite part of the month is seeing struggling parents find resources to help their children. With so many people in the world struggling financially, he hopes many La Porte County residents people will discover and receive support this month and beyond. Local resources are listed at HFL’s Ten2030 website.
“What I want to see this month is people getting connected to resources. I want to see pregnant women and families getting the knowledge of what resources are available to them and how to get those resources. It’s a big issue here—there are so many people who don’t have cribs, or who don’t have room for cribs, but there are resources available for those people,’ said Dr. Wheeland.
HFL is ultimately doing everything it can this month to spread awareness and fight for the safety and health of the community’s babies. The kickoff event was informative and moving and encouraged everyone in the room to go out and instigate change. However, the organization’s fight won’t stop here.
“Today marks the beginning of Safe Sleep Month, but the message of safe sleep isn’t just a month's effort, it’s much larger than that,” said Maria Fruth, president and CEO of HFL. "It truly takes a village, and today is a great representation of the many people throughout La Porte County and the state working together to save the lives of babies."
It’s impossible to say how many babies will benefit from all the work HFL has done. Still, it’s easy to tell that the organization makes the community a much brighter and safer place.
To learn more about Healthcare Foundation of La Porte and all the work its Partners for Healthier Babies Council is doing to keep babies safe, visit hflaporte.org.
If you are aware of a family in need of a safe place for baby to sleep (crib or pack & play) please contact one of these organizations.
Pregnancy Assistance Center, Franciscan Health, 219.214.7400
Women’s Care Center, La Porte, 219.324.4646 or Michigan City, 219.874.4646
Healthy Families – Dunebrook 219.874.0007
La Porte County Health Department, La Porte, 809 State Street or Michigan City, 219.874.5611
Diaper Drop Off Locations during the month of October:
Dunebrook: 7451 West Johnson Road, Michigan City
HealthLinc: 400 Teegarden St., La Porte and 710 Franklin St., Ste. 200, Michigan City
Pregnancy Assistance Center, Franciscan Health, 301 W. Homer St., Michigan City
Women’s Care Center: 512 Maple Avenue, La Porte and 732 Wabash Street, Michigan City