Nurses (from left) Brittany Seavey, Ashley Pearce and Stephanie Wood show the swaddle that will be sent home with newborn babies to encourage safe sleep practices that can prevent infant deaths. DOWN EAST COMMUNITY HOSPITAL PHOTO

DECH implementing safe sleep program for infants

MACHIAS — Down East Community Hospital is in the process of becoming a safe sleep certified hospital through the Cribs for Kids National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services is implementing the program in part because the state of Maine has one of the highest infant mortality rates in New England. In 2017-18, Maine had five deaths per 1,000 births for a total of 70 deaths.

The top three causes of infant death are premature or low birth weight, congenital anomalies and sudden unexplained infant death (SUID). The number of SUID cases has ranged from 8 to 13 each year for the past five years. Many of these are preventable and related to infants being placed in unsafe sleep situations.

DECH aims to achieve a silver certification in safe sleep by March. The process began with the development of a policy, followed by staff training on safe sleep guidelines and the importance of modeling safe sleep for parents.

Staff will implement safe sleep practices and educate parents on the importance of following them. Regular receiving blankets in the nursery will be replaced with wearable blankets called swaddles to create a blanket-free sleep environment. Swaddles have been ordered and will be sent home with baby, along with a book about safe sleep. Parents will be given instructions on how to use the swaddles properly.

“We are excited to bring this program to DECH,” said Tara Matthews, inpatient director. “It is important to us that we do all we can to combat high infant mortality rates and we are pleased that we can offer this training.”

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