SIDS: One Nurse Shares Her Family’s Story

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From the moment we leave the hospital after giving birth to our newborn until the day we send them off into the world, safety is never far from our thoughts.

Kim Hodges, Manager of Clinical Operations in the Pediatric Intensive Care UnitAs parents, we strive to provide safe environments for our children. From the moment we leave the hospital after giving birth to our newborn until the day we send them off into the world, safety is never far from our thoughts. My name is Kim Hodges. I am the mother of four, the Manager of Clinical Operations in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and a registered nurse at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. I have been a nurse for 16 years.

As a nurse, one of my duties is to assist and inform patients before discharge about infant care. One topic that deserves better attention: Sleep safety. The importance of providing a safe sleep environment for infants is essential.  Indiana is ranked 44th in the nation for infant mortality. Only six states are worse than Indiana at supporting infants in reaching their first birthday.

My connection with sleep safety runs deeper than my work as a nurse; it is a topic that has intimately touched my own family. Years ago, I lost my nephew Jacob to SIDS. Jacob was born at IU Health Methodist Hospital in August 1991. On December 3, 1991 my nephew and niece were dropped off at daycare before their parents headed to work. Later that day, we received the news that my nephew was being transported to the critical care unit at Riley Hospital for Children after being found not breathing during nap time. Jacob passed away on December 6,1991.

Twenty-five years later, protecting families from experiencing this life-altering tragedy through safe sleep awareness is my passion.  Today, my work includes the implementation of an infant safe sleep education toolkit for nurses and parents.  At Riley, I am a co-lead for our infant safe sleep awareness and outreach program, with safe sleep education and resources being offered for our team members and Riley families this year.

Health professionals have studied data from infants and families experiencing SIDS in their homes and places of childcare for decades. Health professionals know of evidence-based tips or practices parents can follow at home to offer a safe sleep environment but we do not know the exact cause for SIDS. That said, we do know that certain circumstances have been shown to increase the risk. Here are some tips to help you protect your child.

The ABCs of Safe Sleep

  • A “All By Myself”— Babies are more likely to die from suffocation during co-sleeping than any other cause, even during nap time. Breastfeeding is wonderful and promotes bonding, but remember to place your infant in his/her crib when you are finished.
  • B “On My Back” – It seems like babies will choke if they are flat on their back, but sleeping on their back is actually the safest way. When an infant (or adult) is sleeping on their back, the esophagus (for food) is below the trachea (for breathing). Gravity alone will allow any breast milk or secretions to fall into the esophagus since it is lower than the trachea if baby is sleeping on their back.  
  • C “In My Crib” –There are many safe cribs and sleeping boxes that will fit next to your bed so baby is close but in a separate sleep space. Any caregiver for your infant should also have a safe sleep space for him/her as well.  A crib or flat, firm sleeping surface is the safest place for your baby to sleep. Avoid car seats infant swings and other areas as potential sleep spaces. Sleep spaces should also be free of toys (including stuffed animals), crib bumpers, blankets and pillows.

Remember to not only follow these guidelines as home, but also instruct all caregivers for your infant to follow these practices. At Riley Children’s Health, we care about the health of your infant and family. SIDS is a tragedy that leaves a forever imprint on the hearts of families – together we can celebrate more first birthdays with safe sleep practices.

-- By Kim Hodges MSN, RN, NE-BC
   Manager of Clinical Operations
   Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
   Riley Children’s Health 

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