September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month. Did you know that in 2018, the infant mortality rate in Florida was 6 deaths per 1,000 live births? Out of the 221,508 children born in 2018, approximately 1,329 did not make it to see their first birthday. 

Infant mortality is defined as death occurring during the first year of life. Some of the leading causes of preventable infant death in Hillsborough County are unsafe sleep, shaken baby and unsafe caregivers. In this week’s blog, we’ll talk about how a key Champions program works to prevent infant mortality, and some important things for families to know about how to keep babies safe.

The Champions for Children Healthy Families Hillsborough (HFH) teams work to support mothers and families to ensure they have the resources and knowledge they need to help reduce the infant mortality rate. Healthy Families is a parent support and education program that offers: Information on your child’s growth and development; healthy ways of dealing with everyday stress; help setting and achieving personal and family goals; Positive parenting and discipline skills; and connections to community services. A participant of the Healthy Families program recently had this to say regarding how the program helped her and her child: 

If you are a parent or caregiver, here are some key things to know to make sure your baby stays safe through their first year of life:

Knowing the signs and getting help for postpartum depression

Everyone is familiar with the joy a new life brings, but what many don’t expect is the feeling of depression that can hit after a mom has a baby. Postpartum depression commonly includes depressed mood or severe mood swings, excessive crying, difficulty bonding with your baby, intense irritability and anger, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. If you are experiencing postpartum depression, call your doctor to schedule an appointment. If you’re having thoughts of suicide, call the national the National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). 

Placing baby on his or her back to sleep

Safe sleeping habits for your baby can reduce the likelihood of infant death. Make sure you or anyone caring for your baby are following the ABC’s of safe sleep. Your baby should sleep Alone – without any blankets, toys or people, on their Back and in their Crib, bassinet or pack-n-play. The safest place for your baby to sleep is in the same room as your or the person caring for them, but not in a co-sleeping environment. Following this simple acronym will help you remember how to keep your baby safe while sleeping and reduce the risk of SIDS. Another way Healthy Families helps to reduce the risk of infant mortality is by providing pack-and-plays to their client families who don’t have a safe place for their child to sleep. 

Breastfeeding baby and supporting a woman’s choice to breastfeed

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) breast milk is the best nutrition for infants. Children who are breastfed are associated with a 50% reduction in risk of infant mortality. Breast milk helps babies fight off infections, improves breathing and swallowing techniques, and increases awareness in moms. Breastfeeding is a learned activity and moms who choose to breastfeed may need support to get started and continue. The best techniques and tricks can be best taught by a highly trained and certified lactation consultant. Champions’ lactations consultants can help give moms the support they need to continue breastfeeding. For inquiries regarding breastfeeding support, call our abcProgram at 813-673-4646 ext. 1127. 

Keeping your cool when baby will not stop crying and never shaking a baby

It’s important for parents and caregivers to understand that babies won’t be able to communicate their needs for quite some time. This may cause the baby to cry non-stop with no end in sight. When this happens, it’s okay to walk away to calm your frustration before tending to the baby. Shaken baby syndrome usually occurs when a parent or caregiver severely shakes a child in frustration or anger, often because the child won’t stop crying. Tragically, permanent brain damage or death may result. 

Healthy Families is here to help

Our family support staff at Healthy Families works to reduce infant mortality in our community by working with women and their families before, during, and after pregnancy. Healthy Families help parents navigate through their stress and learn healthy ways of dealing with everyday stress. To learn more about Healthy Families, please contact Michelle Gilyard at (813) 765-1595 or Vanessa Escalera at (813)732-7259.

Healthy Families is an initiative of the Healthy Start Coalition and generously funded by the Children’s board of Hillsborough County, Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida, and the Department of Children & Families.


Links to Resources:

Healthy Families

Help with Postpartum Depression

Safe Sleep for Your Baby Video

Soothing Yourself When your Baby is Crying