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Pleasant Dreams, Sleep Tight

13 Jun

In recent years, Milwaukee has been in the news A LOT.  Unfortunately, it is not regarding our amazing park system or wonderful zoo.  It has been for our infant mortality rate, specifically bed sharing related deaths.  In 2010 it seemed as though every time we turned around, there was another baby lost – it broke my heart every time.  We are extremely blessed – we have 4 beautiful children.  D came home on an apnea monitor, simply so I could take her home over Memorial Day weekend, before her sleep study was officially read.  I remember feeling so inconvenienced.  Silly me!  Amazing how your perspective changes.

Pleasant Dreams, Sleep Tight on

In 2010, I started a blog – which fell to the wayside – and a Facebook page Pleasant Dreams, Sleep Tight, with the sole intention of spreading the word on safe sleep practices to be sure you keep your baby safe.  I don’t know what I expected, but the continued loss of these little lives left me feeling a void in my soul.  I know it sounds odd – they’re not mine, nor do I know the families.  But each time it broke my heart.  My educational pages weren’t doing ANYTHING.  I felt helpless, I don’t like feeling helpless.

Milwaukee participates in the Cribs for Kids programs.  It allows social workers, firefighters, etc. who notice there is no crib in a home with an infant, to provide a Pack ‘n Play with educational support – free of charge.  There are income restrictions.  I have been pouring over the 2010 City of Milwaukee Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) Report looking at the contributing factors, areas most affected, programs in place, etc.  I am looking for the statistical data to back up the anecdotal pieces floating around.  I am looking for WHAT I CAN DO!  I don’t like feeling helpless, so I am not.  I am being the change I want to see in the world. 

Given our obvious ties to the fire department, I would like to work through MFD.  419 cribs were distributed in 2009.  It jumped to 1,010 in 2010.  Most of these were distributed through the fire department. There is an obvious need.  Our fire department is in the homes of our poorer communities more than just about any other agency.  To me, it seems like a perfect fit.  So, the hamster in my brain hopped on her wheel and I started thinking.  How can I make this happen?

I came across a tragic story of loss, with an inspirational story of healing and community service.  Payton Lynn left this world, a week after she joined us.  It was an accidental suffocation when her dad fell asleep holding her.  Her parents are both EMTs.  It show that NO ONE is immune.  They had gone to countless calls – just like this.  Only this time, they were making the 911 call, no answering it.  They took that energy that could have consumed them and turned it into a community serving, life giving memorial to their Angel girl.  They started a Pack ‘n Play program in Austin, TX, like the one in my head.  They have paramedics, who have been trained as Safe Sleep Technicians, to implement and work with the families on safe sleeping practices upon receiving their Pack ‘n Play.  I LOVE what they have done and have contacted J.J. for ideas and information.

I would like to also tie this into the service component of my class.  By the end of the year, as the service due date looms, they are all BEGGING for service experiences that they put off until the last minute.  I would be furthering my cause, expanding my message, providing lifetime experiences that will help  develop a system of values my kids will take with them into life and doing SOMETHING.  SO, here is my IDEAL situation.  Mind you, I am aware that everything in my little plan is not really feasible, but it is a starting place.  This was my organizational moment last night, after I got the girls to bed.  Here is what my brainstorming came up with.

  •  IDEAL SCENARIO– Pack ‘n Plays are available to all who request them, not just those who demonstrate financial need. One on every MFD rig – as space allows and a storage place in one firehouse per battalion.  Safe sleep technicians (specially trained paramedic volunteers, perhaps???) to implement set up and education of families. Make Swaddling Blankets part of the package.
  •  Corporate Partners – Continue to seek out corporate partners to make sure money is not a reason for an unsafe sleeping environment for Milwaukee infants.
  •  Play Yard Drives – Do drives for new/gently used GRACO Pack N Plays – as they have only had 3 recalls since 1996.  Perhaps teaming up with one of the sports team or TV/Radio media for exposure and some sort of incentive.
  • Teen service projects, including, but not limited to:

o    Fundraisers – Breath of Life Stroll – see Pittsburgh, jeans passes at school during October, wristbands, challenges issued to other schools – maybe tied to Homecoming events, singing balloon/lollipop bouquets, Sleeping baby wall – buy a spot for your baby pictures – brings attention to the issues and tugs at the heartstrings
o    Dissemination of information – print media, social networking, TV/Radio, area high schools, PSAs on YouTube

It is a start.  It makes my head stopping spinning and gives me a place to focus my attention.  I sent an email to the captain at the BIT to see what is needed and what is feasible. If working with the fire department is not possible, I do have a back up plan in my mind – but the hamster is tired.  Wish my luck, kiss your babies and give them room to breathe.

My Little O at 6 months.  Give them a chance to grow.  Sleep safe.


Empty Cradles

25 Jan

It breaks my heart and infuriates me all at the same time.  And I am feeling guilty.  Feeling like I dropped the ball.

Milwaukee – known for Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days, beer and brats,  and an infant mortality rate that rivals 3rd world and developing nations.  Many of the babies are born early (often due to lack of proper prenatal care), many are born to impoverished families, some had parents who decided to drink and share a bed with them and they all leave us far too soon.  And in most cases their loss can be prevented.

Now, when I first began this crusade, I ended up being lambasted by those touting the long lasting bonds that have been formed because of co-sleeping.  It is always a choice – it is not a law.  I personally am NOT on that bandwagon.  My children slept in their own bed from day 1.  Partially because I was following the recommendations of the medical community and partially because I wanted to be sure my kids could sleep without me – in their own beds.  I also know there are safety measures that can be put in place to reduce the risks for those who choose to co-sleep – co-sleepers for the side of the bed that allow mom easy access, but still give baby their own space; bassinets, pack-n-plays, etc.  BUT – in most of these cases that Milwaukee has seen – it ends up that there are things that COULD HAVE BEEN DONE.  Google “Milwaukee Infant Deaths”  and you will be surprised (and sickened) at the results.  It is even making news in France.

Parents/caregivers SHOULD NEVER share a bed if there are over tired, sick and taking meds that cause drowsiness, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Comforters and pillows, other children – more no-nos.  The Milwaukee Fire Department has a pack and play on their trucks and engines for any calls they go to and notice there is a baby, but no crib.  St. Joseph’s hospital has a program where you can literally walk in with your baby and they will give you a pack n play.  There are several organizations working with mothers who cannot afford the cribs to allow them a safe sleeping environment for their babies.  They just have to ask.

Here is where I dropped the ball.  Last year, I started a blog, Twitter and Facebook page called Pleasant Dreams, Sleep Tight.  The whole purpose was education and community involvement.  Then the summer came and all the kids were home, the MFD  Class of 07-26-2010 hit us full force, the boys and started at a new school and then I started working to acclimate to fire life and it totally slipped my mind – until we started losing more babies

I have lost sleep, I have had guilt hit me like you would not believe.  My husband feels I am being silly, what could I do – go house to house checking for cribs?  And in all reality, I do have to take care of my family first.  But, what if I used some of those sleepless nights and kept up with the mission I had started?  What if one of these moms happened across one of the pages? What if? What if? What if?

So, my Crusade is back on.  If one baby is saved…you know the spiel.  No more empty cradles, no more lives cut short when their death could have been prevented.