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Report shows uptick in sudden unexpected infant death in SJC

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A new report blames an uptick in infant deaths on a growing problem in St. Joseph County.

The child fatality review team listed sudden unexpected infant death as the reason for 10 out of more than two dozen infant deaths. The team says that number is high compared to past years, so now the team and community partners hope to tackle the problem.

One of life’s most precious gifts at risk in St. Joseph County because of sudden unexpected infant death syndrome.  

"We had 10 SUID deaths," said Dr. Tom Felger. "So for our county, that’s a significant increase." 

Dr. Felger is chair of the St. Joseph County Child Fatality Review Team.

"Yes it doesn’t happen most of the time, but when it does happen, it’s a disaster," said Felger.

Today a study revealed of the 27 infant deaths in St. Joseph County sudden unexpected infant death which includes causes like accidental asphyxia or sudden infant death syndrome left 10 families grieving in 2017.That number significantly higher than in years past.

In two of the 10 SUID deaths in 2017, the cause was accidental asphyxia. Eight SUID deaths were undetermined, but Dr. Felger says there was evidence of poor sleeping habits. So experts say the easiest way to lower those numbers is to practice safe sleep habits with your child.

"Know the abc’s," said Nikki Hunt. "Baby should be alone on its back in a crib or a baby box, a safe area. Baby is not to be sleeping with the mom or with the dad. It’s easy to fall asleep while holding the baby, but that’s the most dangerous position for the baby." 

Felger says a lack of education could be reason why this number is increasing.

Community Wellness Partners of South Bend educates mothers in minority groups on SUID with an initiative it started last year. 

"One of the programs that we do is the speak life program which pairs moms with doulas from the time that they’re pregnant all the way until the baby is a year old," said Kelli Brien. 

Nikki Hunt, a doula, someone who guides an expecting mother though pregnancy, says by helping mothers learn parenting skills during and after pregnancy, it can prevent SUID deaths in the future. 

“Because when they know better, they do better," said Hunt. 

Something she's witnessed first hand. 

"To know that you’ve helped this mom evolve into a beautiful mother, who’s now working and got baby in daycare," said Hunt. "Baby’s walking and baby’s talking and playing and where when you first met her, she’s a nervous wreck... and now she’s calm cool and collected and she’s got this and she understands this is my baby and I’ve got this."


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