Legion grant promotes infant health

The American Legion has awarded a $16,000 child welfare grant to First Candle, a nonprofit working to eliminate sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidental suffocation through education and research. It also provides bereavement support to families who have lost a child to SIDS.

Alison Jacobson of Wilton, executive director of First Candle, accepted the first half of the grant at the Mid-Winter Conference of the American Legion’s Connecticut Chapter  last month.

SIDS is still the leading cause of death for babies one month to one year of age and in Connecticut the rate along with accidental suffocation is higher than the national average. The rates are two to three times higher among lower socioeconomic families, particularly African American and Hispanic. Experts attribute this disparity to the lack of resources and education available to this community.

To address the disparity and reach the most vulnerable populations, First Candle has launched the Straight Talk for Infant Safe Sleep Campaign. This is a two-part initiative aimed at training community partners (public health nurses, social workers, clergy and daycare providers) on safe sleep guidelines and teaching them how to engage in a dialogue with parents.

“The rate of SIDS and accidental suffocation is higher in the daycare setting, with the majority of deaths occurring the first week a baby attends daycare,” Jacobson said. “Our program teaches daycare providers about the new safe sleep guidelines developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the reasons behind them. We also help them create a safe sleep contract with parents and address issues a parent might have regarding the guidelines.”

The second part is a parent workshop where the trainers host new and expecting parents for an interactive session on safe sleep and the importance of breastfeeding.  Discussions on cultural beliefs, logistical challenges and developing the self-confidence to insist on back sleeping for anyone watching their baby are addressed. Parents are also provided with portable cribs, wearable blankets, pacifiers and other products to help promote safe sleep.