Cribs for Kids helps infants sleep safely

Cribs for Kids helps infants sleep safely

“Infants should sleep alone, on their backs and in an empty crib.”

This frequently-recited line encompasses the A-B-Cs of safe sleep, as set by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and used by the Lycoming County coroner’s office in its Kids for Cribs program.

The program helps educate families, particularly low-income families, on how to help infants sleep safely.

Families in need also could receive a safe sleep environment — typically a portable Pack ‘N’ Play crib — for newborns, said Kate Nickles, deputy coroner and Cribs for Kids program coordinator.

In addition to the A-B-Cs, new parents also should remember to “share your bedroom — but not your bed — for the first year,” she added.

The coroner’s office has kept the program alive through grant funding and donations, Nickles said.

About 150 cribs, pack ‘n’ plays or other safe-sleep environments have been given to families in need since the program started and about three families visit the coroner’s office each month on average to learn more about safe sleep, she said.

UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport acts as an educational partner in the program, providing more information and referring families in need.

“Alone” and “empty crib” are important aspects of safe sleep for babies, said Dr. Ashley Pence, a pediatrician with the hospital.

Nothing should be in their sleeping area, not even soft blankets or cuddly stuffed toys, she said.

“Infants aren’t able to recognize their body’s need for oxygen, so they acutally can suffocate in these things,” Pence said, adding younger babies can’t turn their heads.

When an infant dies due to an unsafe sleep environment, it typically is categorized as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS.

The syndrome can be a catch-all term for any unexpected infant death, Pence said.

While unsafe-sleep deaths are sudden and unexpected, they also are preventable, she said.

“I’m so passionate about this because sleep-related death is a preventable death,” she said. “I’ve seen these cases of children dying and it’s just heartwrenching for everybody. If we can prevent that kind of pain, then we should.”

In her prevention efforts, Pence also educates new parents using the A-B-Cs.

“I do preach the A-B-Cs in my office,” she said. “It’s a good way to get the point across.”

Kiessling started the program in 2009 in the wake of investigating relatively frequent infant deaths caused by unsafe sleep environments, Nickles said.

“Chuck had seen several infant deaths due to unsafe sleep environments in our county and he got frustrated with it,” she said.

Having heard of the Safe Sleep program in Pittsburgh, Kiessling became a partner to form the Lycoming County program.

“We’ve focused on safe sleep initiatives and education for many years and we’ve made great progress,” Keissling said. “Over the last three years, the Lycoming County Coroner’s Office has investigated zero unsafe-sleep related deaths. Zero is the goal as even one is too many.”