5 little-known habits that endanger your baby

Accidental death related to unsafe sleep habits is the No. 1 cause of infant mortality in Missouri’s Bootheel. But it’s not just remembering to place your baby on his or her back to sleep or ensuring that your baby’s crib or sleep space meets current safety guidelines (both of which are very important). We know more about the causes of infant death today than we ever have, which makes it critical to educate caregivers on other key factors that put your baby at risk.

Did you know?  

– That blankets or other loose bedding in your baby’s crib are a suffocation hazard?

– That pillows, stuffed toys or crib bumper pads in your baby’s crib are suffocation and choking hazards?

– That babies should never co-sleep with adults, other babies or children?

– That sleeping in a car seat puts your baby at risk for choking and suffocation?

– That babies should only sleep in a crib or other safe sleep surface with a tightly fitted sheet?

Make sure that everyone who cares for your child is aware of these dangers. We’ve made it easy. Just screen shot the list below and text to friends, family and caregivers to help educate them.


Q: Do mesh crib bumpers increase my baby’s risk of SIDS?

It’s fairly common knowledge that traditional bumper pads increase infants’ risk of suffocation and SIDS. Recently, though, some businesses have been offering mesh or “breathable” crib bumpers as safe alternatives. But are they really safer?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “No.”

Mesh bumper pads allow more air, but they aren’t suffocation-proof. Just like regular crib bumpers, babies can still roll against them, covering their nose and mouth, and not have the strength or motor skills to turn over. This blocks their breathing and may have disastrous consequences.

At present, mesh bumper pads have not been around long enough to conclusively determine if they’re safe. Until that happens, it’s best to not put babies at risk.

If you’re concerned your child might get stuck between the crib slats, make sure the gap is no more than 2 3/8 inches.

Find out how to create the perfect sleep environment for your baby. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/preparing-baby-crib-safety/]

How you can help save lives

This September (like every September) is Infant Mortality Awareness Month – a time for us to shine a spotlight on the issue we’re passionate about every day. Infant mortality is a devastating problem in the Bootheel, with more than 140 babies from six Missouri counties (Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott and Stoddard) lost in the last nine years.

Almost everyone in the Bootheel has encountered infant mortality in some form – whether as a family member, neighbor or just seeing a report on the local news. Even if you’re not directly connected, the community around you declines when babies are lost.

Resolve to make a difference for your community this month by helping save infants’ lives. Here are a few practical ways you can do that.

Get the facts about infant mortality

The first step is educating yourself on this issue and how losing babies affects your community. Our website BootheelBabies.org has a lot of great information focused specifically on the Bootheel, so you’ll know how to start a conversation about infant mortality in your area.

We recommend starting at BootheelBabies.org/the-problem/ to see firsthand why this issue is important.

Share info

Bootheel Babies & Families is all over the internet – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. We frequently share information related to our mission, along with tips for safe sleep, prenatal care, child safety and more. By following us on any or all of these pages and sharing our posts, you’ll help spread our message and provide others with valuable info for their babies.

September is a good time to start sharing, as we’ll be posting info focused on infant mortality all month long.

Learn your ABC’S

No, we don’t mean the kind you learned in elementary school. We’re talking about the ABC’S of Safe Sleep: Babies sleep best

  • Alone, on their
  • Back, in a
  • Crib, or other
  • Safe Sleep Surface

This method of putting babies to bed is proven to significantly reduce their risk of suffocation and SIDS, making it crucial for everyone to know. And it only takes a few minutes to commit to memory.

Thank you for supporting our cause. Like us on Facebook to stay up to date with current information on infant mortality.

6 must-do’s to prepare for your baby

At some point during your pregnancy, you may feel like it’s never going to end. But every day, you move closer to the big event. Before you get there, though, you have to prepare.

Here are some things to do during your final trimester to make sure you’re good to go before labor starts.

  1. Don’t miss any appointments with your healthcare provider. As your due date nears, your provider will want to see you often – perhaps even once a week. Since things change so quickly during the final stage of pregnancy, it’s important to attend each appointment to ensure everything’s going as expected. Plus, your provider will talk through a delivery plan so you know what to do when you go into labor.
  2. Review the symptoms of labor. Every woman is different, but some common signs you’re going into labor include feeling the baby move lower into your pelvis, cramps, back pain and increased vaginal discharge. If any of the following symptoms occur, it’s time to go to the hospital:
    • Your water breaks
    • You experience bleeding or bright red discharge.
    • Your contractions have hit the consistency and frequency discussed with your provider.
  3. Make sure you have enough baby supplies. Welcome your new addition home with:
    • A properly installed car seat
    • Adequate clothing (onesies, sleepers, etc.)
    • Fitted crib sheets and receiving blankets
    • Diapers, wipes and diaper cream
    • Baby soap/shampoo and washcloths
    • Gentle laundry detergent
    • Feeding supplies
    • A first-aid kit with a baby thermometer
  4. Set up the crib. Select a crib manufactured after 2011, and place only a mattress covered by a fitted sheet inside. To reduce their risk of suffocation and SIDS, babies sleep best Alone, on their Backs, in a Crib, or other Safe Sleep Surface. This means your child’s crib should not have bumper pads, blankets, pillows or stuffed animals. To find out more about reducing your infant’s risk of SIDS, visit this blog post. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/no-1-thing-can-reduce-infants-risk-sids/]
  5. Pack your hospital bag. Once labor starts, there’s no time to search for what you need to take to the hospital. Pack your bag in advance and set it in a convenient place, so you can grab it and go. Some things you’ll need include:
    • Insurance card, photo ID and birth plan
    • Phone charger
    • Robe and warm, nonskid socks
    • Toiletries
    • Loose, lightweight clothes to wear home
    • Maternity bra
    • Snacks
    • Outfit for your baby to wear home
  6. Take time to de-stress. A lot happens during the third trimester, and doing too much can take a toll on your health. Set aside time to do something you enjoy, whether it’s shopping, getting your nails done or watching a movie. Also, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Aim for around seven hours each night, and take naps throughout the day if you’re sleepy. Your baby needs you to be healthy and as relaxed as possible when he or she makes an entrance.

Find more pregnancy and child care tips here. [link to www.bootheelbabies.org]

Disclaimer: If your baby has a fever or other symptoms, or you have concerns about the growth and development of your child, always seek care with your healthcare provider.

The Bootheel Opioid Crisis Affects Moms and Babies

The Bootheel of Missouri is in the epicenter of a region with the highest opioid prescription rates in America (see 2016 CDC figure below). While rates have improved recently, over 210 million prescriptions for opioids are filled in the USA annually, with 2% of Americans using opioids “regularly”.

Most women in our region receive excellent prenatal care. While there are no published statistics available for opioid use by pregnant women in southeast Missouri, large studies using insurance claims data suggest about a third of women fill a prescription for opioids during pregnancy.

Increases in neonatal abstinence syndrome have been temporally correlated with increases in opioid pain reliever use by pregnant women. With at least one infant with neonatal abstinence syndrome born every hour in the United States, the hospital charges alone are more than $1.4 billion a year. Opioid use in pregnancy also contributes massive additional costs through prematurity, birth defects, and abnormal neurocognitive and behavioral development.

Maternal risks associated with prescription and illicit opioid overuse include overdose, hepatitis, blood stream infections, incarceration, and job loss. Mental health disorders both contribute to and exacerbate substance use.

Unfortunately, public resistance to invest in care and prevention for depression and substance abuse remains, even though far more expensive care for potentially preventable heart attacks, strokes and cancers face minimal public resistance. Depression and addiction are both treatable chronic diseases. The costs of treating these diseases are minimal relative to the health and economic benefits for individuals and society.

Recent passage of HB 2280 allows substance abuse treatment for the entire postpartum year. Portions of SB 951 designate 2018-2028 “Show Me Freedom from Opioid Addiction Decade” and instruct the Department of Health to establish “Improved access to Treatment for Opioid Addiction”. While the exact implications of this bill are unclear, it is encouraging that opioid addiction and suboptimal delivery of mental health care are being acknowledged and addressed.

Gibson Recovery Center (www.gibsonrecoverycenter.org) and Family Counseling Center (www.fccinc.org) are two local treatment and counseling centers focused on caring for pregnant women with substance misuse.

My college roommate, Matt Miofsky, is an articulate pastor who describes compassion as “Not mere niceness. Compassion means to suffer with, understanding another not through preconceptions but through the other’s experiences. It means setting aside our judgments long enough to see life through their eyes. When we can begin to get a glimpse of another’s experiences, it is much harder to judge them, and much easier to begin to understand them.” It can be difficult for health care providers to display this compassion for parents whose actions may have contributed negatively to pregnancy outcomes. Pragmatically and ethically, the infant, mother, family, healthcare providers and society need compassion to be displayed toward the mother. Each mother loves her newborn. Her involvement is key to optimizing care and reducing hospitalization time and need for medications. The time in the NICU provides an excellent opportunity for health care providers and counselors to connect with mothers. While some of these mothers need medications and/or inpatient rehabilitation, all individuals (myself included) can benefit from improving coping mechanisms vital in caring for an irritable infant.

How can you can help? First, display compassion. Second, support efforts to improve prescription drug monitoring. Missouri remains the only state in America without a prescription drug monitoring program; HB 90 failed to be approved again this year.  Third, thank legislators for addressing the opioid epidemic and supporting infant and mental health care services.

Missouri House Representatives Holly Rehder, Don Rone, Kathy Swan, Herman Morse, and Donna Lichtenegger and Senators Wayne Wallingsford and Doug Libla are our southeast Missouri state legislators. Please make sure they are aware of the needs and benefits of providing compassion toward mothers and families challenged by opioid use during pregnancy. Their contact information is available at www.house.mo.gov and www.senate.mo.gov.


What should I eat while I’m pregnant?

Eating while pregnant isn’t too different from regular nutrition – it involves consuming a variety of healthy foods. Experts recommend getting 300 more calories a day than you did pre-pregnancy.

Eat more of these:
Don’t waste your extra calories on junk foods that do nothing to help your baby develop. Try these foods instead.

Fruits and veggies – Select a variety: green, red, orange – all of these are nutritious.

Whole grains – Oatmeal, popcorn and brown rice are good choices.

Low-fat or fat-free dairy – The calcium in milk, yogurt and cheese helps your baby develop healthy bones.

Protein – Eating a variety of protein-rich foods is best. Lean meats, eggs, beans and unsalted nuts are good places to start.

Folic acid – Consuming extra folic acid during pregnancy helps your baby’s brain and spine develop normally. Opt for leafy greens, dried beans, nuts, broccoli, spinach, citrus fruits and juice.

Prenatal vitamins – As recommended by your healthcare provider, taking vitamins during pregnancy helps ensure your baby has all the nutrients he or she needs to grow.

To build a personalized nutrition guide based on your specific needs, click here. [link to https://www.choosemyplate.gov/moms-pregnancy-breastfeeding]

Don’t eat these:
During pregnancy, you have to be cautious about foods that are normally fine but can harm a fetus. Be on the alert for

Mercury-rich seafood – Although seafood contains omega-3 fatty acids that are good for a baby, tilefish, swordfish and king mackerel are high in mercury and can be dangerous. In addition, tuna should be limited to six ounces each week. Choose salmon, trout and sardines if you really crave something from under the sea.

Caffeinated drinks – Water is a better option during pregnancy because dehydration can lead to low amniotic fluid, premature labor and other complications.

Various other foods – Raw meats, raw eggs, deli meats and soft cheeses are usually fine for adults but contain bacteria that could harm your baby. Steer clear of these if you’re expecting.

When it comes down to it, the best thing for your baby is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of vitamins and minerals, including extra folic acid.

If you want to make sure you’re on the right track, speak with a healthcare provider about your pregnancy diet.

For more articles about common baby-related questions, visit us here. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/blog/]

Disclaimer: If your baby has a fever or other symptoms, or you have concerns about the growth and development of your child, always seek care with your healthcare provider.

New parents’ guide to summer vacation

How to keep your baby safe, healthy and happy during the hottest season

 Summer vacation with a baby (or even a trip to a Little League game for an afternoon) can be tricky for new parents. Here are some tips to get you started on the right foot.

 #1 Keep your baby cool

Having a newborn during the summer can be a challenge on many fronts, but one of the most common is related to soaring temperatures. Babies, just like adults, are susceptible to dehydration and overheating, but those conditions are even more dangerous in infants whose symptoms may be less obvious. You can read more about the signs of an overheated infant here. 

#2 Keep your baby healthy

If you’re outside, even for a short period of time, make sure to apply appropriate sunscreen to your baby and avoid direct sunlight and extremely high temperatures. It’s also a good idea to use a mosquito net to protect your baby from bug bites.

#3 Plan ahead for travel

Whether you’re taking your first big family vacation with your baby, or just getting away for a weekend, traveling with an infant requires a little extra planning and preparation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • If you’re traveling on an airplane, know that TSA allows you to carry on breast milk, formula and baby food in “reasonable quantities” exceeding the usual 3.4 ounces. You can read the full policy
  • If you’ll be staying in a hotel or with family/friends, be sure to make sleeping arrangements for your infant. Either bring a Pack-n-Play or reserve a crib at the hotel. Never share a bed with your infant or allow your infant to sleep in a carseat, even while traveling.
  • If you have a newborn, speak with your pediatrician about when it’s safe to travel with your baby. Some providers recommend waiting until babies are over two months of age, but circumstances may vary.
  • If your trip includes water, don’t forget swim diapers. You don’t want to see what happens to the regular kind in a pool.  🙂

Project WIN helps mothers with addictions beat the odds

Bootheel Babies & Families is pleased to feature Brooke Burlison, BSW, QAP, and the program coordinator for Project WIN at FCC Behavioral Health in Kennett, MO. Brooke is an active leader in our fight against infant mortality through her work with young mothers in Dunklin and Pemiscot counties.

Pregnancy is an exciting time, as you prepare to become a mother and strive to create a good life for your baby yourself. It can also be a stressful time, even more so if you or a loved one struggles with substance use and misuse. Not only is substance abuse dangerous for you, it can cause chronic and severe health problems for your baby.

Project WIN – Women and Infants in Need – is here to help. Since 2016 we’ve offered substance use intervention and assistance to pregnant or post-partum women in Dunklin and Pemiscot counties who need help breaking the cycle of addiction. We provide outreach, engagement, screenings, comprehensive assessment, counseling, care coordination and linkage to community resources.

What does that really mean? Well, we can help you or your loved one remain free from using alcohol, tobacco and illegal substances during your pregnancy. We are there for you every step of the way. Our nurse care manager, Kathy Tansil, helps you coordinate your medical care and medications, and makes sure the physician’s plan is followed. Brienne Meeks, our Care Coordinator, helps you with community services you may need, such as transportation, food, safe housing, education or infant care programs like Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program. Ramona Whitlock, our Peer Support Specialist, provides you with individual support, and will connect you with groups that build skills to keep you and your baby healthy during and after pregnancy. We want to ensure all our moms have a strong support network.

At Project WIN, we strive to make sure every mom is equipped to succeed with a healthy lifestyle – and a healthy baby. Our program is entirely voluntary, not mandated by any court; but the women who join Project WIN to change their lives find it very valuable. Since the program received funding through Bootheel Babies & Families, 55 women have joined our program.  We are proud of the results:

  • 100% of the women found housing
  • 100% of the women enrolled in Smoking Cessation
  • 100% of the women enrolled in Medicaid
  • 100 % of our program participants had live, drug-free births
  • 100% remained abstinent from substance use/misuse
  • 72% of babies born to Project WIN participants had normal birth weight
  • 100% of mothers still in school improved their GPA

Our hope is that every mother who participates in Project WIN, and their baby, lives a healthy, addiction-free life.

At Project WIN, we are grateful to Bootheel Babies and Families for their support of our efforts, and their fight to reduce infant mortality in our area. We collaborate with them regularly on safe sleep education and initiatives as well as other resources under the infant mortality reduction effort. We are glad to partner with them by serving on committees and attending Bootheel Babies monthly steering committee meetings to stay informed and connect on up to date data and initiative outcomes.

We hope that Project WIN is able to continue serving women in our communities, and we plan to expand our staff in an effort to grow and reach more women in need.  We have learned as a team there is a great need for programs like Project WIN and the other programs that work under the infant mortality initiative.  By working with community partners, we have a greater opportunity to reduce infant mortality together.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out. We want to help.


Brooke Burlison


573.888.5925 X1503

3 reasons why you should consider breastfeeding

In a list of hundreds of baby-related decisions you must make, one of the biggest is to use breast milk, formula or a combination of the two. You’ll likely receive an overwhelming amount of info about breastfeeding, so we’ll try to boil it down to the basics.


Here are three reasons why breastfeeding could be the best option for you and your child:

1. Breastfeeding keeps your baby healthier.

Breast milk is specially designed with antibodies that protect your baby from colds, the flu and more serious diseases like cancer. Breastfed babies are also at a lower risk for food allergies, eczema, asthma and even crooked teeth.*


Plus, researchers have found that children who were breastfed for at least three months tend to have higher IQ scores than those who were bottle-fed.†


2. Breastfeeding supports moms’ health.

Columbia University researchers discovered that women who breastfeed are 1.5 times less likely to develop breast cancer, and they have a lower risk of ovarian cancer than women who do not breastfeed.


A more immediate benefit is that breastfeeding burns between 300 and 500 calories per day, helping you reach health goals sooner.‡


3. Breastfeeding saves you money in the long run.

Bottle-feeding can cost around $1,500 for six months’ worth of formula and supplies. Electric breast pumps cost a bit initially, but they result in savings over time. And your local health department may offer a breast pump loan program.


Take time to discuss breastfeeding with your healthcare provider, so you can make the right decision for you and your baby.


Don’t have a healthcare provider? Visit our resource guide to find one near you.


Disclaimer: If your baby has a fever or other symptoms, or you have concerns about the growth and development of your child, always seek care with your healthcare provider.


* The Bump

† Kramer, Michael S., Frances Aboud and Elena Mironova. “Breastfeeding and Child Cognitive Development: New Evidence from a Large Randomized Trial.” 2008.

‡ Women’s Health

4 things that should never be in your baby’s crib


A safe crib includes a firm mattress and tightly fitted sheet. That’s it.

As you design your baby’s sleep surface, give some attention to what shouldn’t be included: blankets, pillows, toys, bumper pads and other babies. Here’s why:

1) Blankets and pillows

Because an infant doesn’t have the strength to move if his or her mouth and nose become covered, loose blankets and pillows increase the risk of suffocation and SIDS.

2) Toys

Like blankets and pillows, stuffed animals and other toys can cause suffocation or SIDS if they come near a baby’s face.

3) Bumper pads

Many parents use bumper pads to keep their baby from hitting his or her head on crib slats. But the risk associated with suffocation and SIDS from crib bumpers makes them too dangerous. As long as the spaces between slats are no more than 2 3/8 inches, your baby should be fine.

4) Other children

A baby should sleep alone – ALWAYS. Because children move around in their sleep, babies are at risk of being crushed or pushed off the bed. The chance of suffocation or SIDS is also higher when babies share an adult bed with caregivers.

Instead of adding blankets, crib bumpers and toys to your baby’s crib, focus on choosing a firm mattress, tightly fitted sheet and perfect sleep sack. And keep an eye out for these three signs a crib isn’t safe.

To learn more about creating a safe sleep surface for your infant, click here.

Disclaimer: If your baby has a fever or other symptoms, or you have concerns about the growth and development of your child, always seek care with your healthcare provider.