Mayor Barrett, Health Commissioner visit churches to talk safe sleep for babies

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and City of Milwaukee Commissioner of Health Bevan Baker spoke at several Milwaukee churches Sunday, October 14th for the "Safe Sleep Sabbath." The event is meant to raise awareness of unsafe sleeping conditions for babies.

From 2009-2011, there were more than 520 stillbirths and infant deaths in Milwaukee. For every 1,000 births, 10 infants died. Black infants were three times more likely to die than white infants. A substantial portion of these infant deaths and stillbirths were preventable, including those with risk factors for unsafe sleep.

"There are some neighborhoods in the city where the infant mortality rates are comparable to those rates in third world countries. That's not acceptable to me as mayor and we're going to do everything we can to lower that," Mayor Barrett said.

Sunday, Mayor Barrett and Baker hoped to spread the message of the importance of health for expectant mothers as well as safe sleeping conditions for infants and babies.

"We're looking at issues like prematurity, access to health care, appropriate diet, making sure that women don't get close to smoke, second-hand smoke included," Mayor Barrett said.

Health officials advise parents to keep infants in a crib, removing pillows, blankets and keeping them away from second-hand smoke.

"We have to overstep the barrier that people know -- people who've done this for many, many years. What we now know is that the safest place for a baby is alone in that crib on their back without toys or anything in their crib," Baker said.

Because many of Milwaukee's infant deaths are caused by co-sleeping, the city of Milwaukee is offering free cribs to families to try to reduce the number of co-sleeping deaths.

"We know there are people who economically are not in a good situation. We don't that to be a barrier. If you've got issues, we'll have a crib for you," Mayor Barrett said.

"We've got to continually inform families, inform caregivers and others in the community that this is an issue and we need to make certain there are safe sleep practices," Baker said.

The City of Milwaukee Health Department Cribs for Kids program provides Milwaukee families with Pack ‘n Plays to help reduce deaths due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and unsafe sleep. Pack ‘n Plays are provided to families who are unable to purchase one and who are referred by a community professional such as a case worker or nurse.

CLICK HERE for additional information on the Cribs for Kids program.

CLICK HERE for additional Safe Sleeping tips via the City of Milwaukee’s website.

CLICK HERE for Safe Sleep Sabbath info.

CLICK HERE to visit the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s “infant mortality” info. page.