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Alleviate risk of Sudden Infant Death, expert advises
Every week one family in Canada suffers the loss of a loved one. Sometimes it is an infant who has touched their lives only briefly and who is suddenly taken in a way that cannot be explained nor prevented. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or crib death happens when an apparently healthy infant dies without warning in his or her sleep, affecting all family members
The Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (CFSID) is dedicated to providing the public with an understanding of SIDS. It is a volunteer-driven national organization, providing resources and support to bereaved families who have experienced unexpected infant deaths, including stillbirths and miscarriages.
"We deliver workshops upon request to various Native centres," said National Officer Safe Sleep Coordinator, Suzanne Nickel.
"And we have created DVDs specifically focusing on the Circle of Life." She added that this type of awareness is just some of what CFSID has developed.
Through an extensive network of communities throughout Canada, CFSID provides health education to infant guardians and caregivers, with emphasis on expectant and new mothers ranging in age from under 20 to over 40, including those of First Nation, Métis and Inuit backgrounds.
SIDS is the leading cause of death in Canada for infants between the age of one month to one year. Unfortunately, First Nations communities across the country are struck by SIDS at a rate three times higher than the general population. In Saskatchewan alone, the SIDS rate between 1982 and 1994 was 5.5 per cent higher for Native infants than for non-Native infants.
Nickel said the ABCs (Always on my Back in my own Crib) campaign is specific to the needs of those who have experienced the loss of an infant.
A DVD was recently launched in Ontario, she said, that gives safety sleep tips to new mothers and is now on its way to hospitals throughout the country. It is expected to benefit all those who come in contact with maternity caregivers, said Nickel.
"Through the support of funding, we will be sending out copies to every maternity hospital across Canada," she added. "With the complimentary DVD and an educator's guide book, we are asking the hospitals to share it with their maternity ward staff."
CFSID hopes the health units will eventually make it mandatory for all new mothers to view the DVD before they leave the hospital.
Another resource that is also available to the public is an online certification course. The ABC's of Safe Sleep course allows all care givers, including babysitters and day care workers, to understand the specific risk factors that may lead to SIDS, and offers information on the health and safety of infants.
"The new certified course, which you can access through the website www.sidscanada.org, can be completed and printed and is good for 2 years until you renew it," Nickel said.
According to the Triple Risk Model to explain SIDS, three main components are the foundation and overlap one another to create much higher risks. One is the 'Critical Period of Development', which is the baby's first 6 months. Others are the 'Modifiable Pre-and Post-Natal Environmental Stressors', which include prone/side sleep, nicotine exposure, soft bedding, overheating and bed-sharing and the 'Underlying Vulnerability' that could include possible brainstem abnormality. Researchers suggest that 8 out of 10 babies die in unsafe sleep environments. The CFSID emphasizes that the crib, the firm mattress, the tightly fitted sheet and the baby are all that is needed to create a safe sleep environment.
Clearly, there is a need to educate all expectant parents and caregivers on reducing the risk of SIDS, whatever their social, economic, or cultural background. As long as people have to deal with the devastating affects of losing a child to SIDS, Nickel said, CFSID will continue to provide a sense of welcoming to all those who wish to utilize their support and resources.
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