Annual Safe Sleep Sabbath in partnership with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the City of Milwaukee Health Department, and area churches including the Church of God in Christ of the Northwest Jurisdiction, Common Ground and Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, to help bring the message of infant safe sleep practices where it is needed most.
The focus of this year’s Safe Sleep Sabbath is the topic of secondhand smoke and its link to infant deaths. In 2011, secondhand smoke was a significant factor in the deaths of 31 infants in Milwaukee.
According to the City of Milwaukee Health Department, 48 Milwaukee infants died of SIDS or accidental suffocation between 2009 and 2011. Of those 48 deaths:
• 32 were sharing a bed with parents, other children or a caregiver.
• 31 were exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes.
• 41 were sleeping on or near adult pillows or were put to sleep with blankets, quilts or stuffed animals.
• 18 had been placed on their stomachs or sides to sleep.
• 11 were sleeping on a couch, chair, car seat or swing.
• 13 caregivers were using drugs or alcohol.
(Note: many infants had multiple risk factors. 2011 data is preliminary.) “Based on preliminary information, infant deaths due to unsafe sleep practices have not declined in Milwaukee since last year,” said Bill Solberg, Director of Community Services for Columbia St. Mary’s. “These deaths are not only devastating, but they were preventable.”
According to Solberg though, there does seem to be a positive trend. “As our parish nurses and community health workers speak to people in the community, it is clear that more people are aware of the basic safe sleep recommendations and are changing their behavior,” he said.
Solberg added that requests to the Milwaukee Health Department and area hospitals for Pack-n-Play cribs have increased markedly in the past year. Pack-n-Play cribs help create a safe environment for infants.
Solberg and other community leaders feel strongly that area churches are key in helping to communicate the importance of safe sleep practices to help prevent needless infant deaths in our community. “In many communities in Milwaukee, the church plays a pivotal role,” said Solberg.
“It is a trusted gathering spot, a source of spiritual fulfillment as well as practical instruction.
“It is the perfect venue in which to raise awareness about safe sleep practices and therefore, the Safe Sleep Sabbath helps keep this important health issue top of mind.”
The Safe Sleep Sabbath program has two phases. The first occurs on September 12th, when area clergy will attend a luncheon at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee to learn about safe sleep practices.
Next, on October 14th, the participating clergy will spread these lifesaving lessons to their congregations during a city-wide Safe Sleep Sabbath.
In 2011, the program’s first year, more than 80 pastors participated in the Safe Sleep Sabbath, representing churches and faiths throughout the Milwaukee area.