What Causes SIDS?

“SIDS” (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) strikes fear into every parent’s heart, and that’s understandable. A normal, healthy baby can go to sleep and never wake up – for seemingly no reason. The medical community isn’t sure exactly what causes SIDS. But that doesn’t mean you’re helpless.

Here are three major risk factors for SIDS, along with ways to reduce them.

  1. Prematurity or low birth weight

Statistically, more premature babies die from SIDS compared to infants born after 37 weeks. The best way to make sure your pregnancy is progressing as it should is to visit a healthcare provider regularly. This allows them to identify and address any issues, so your baby stays in the oven as long as possible.

  1. Smoking

The data isn’t good: Babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are three times more likely to die of SIDS, and babies who are regularly around secondhand smoke are two times more likely.* If you are expecting a child, make every effort to quit smoking and keep your baby away from smoky areas. Find out more about how secondhand smoke harms infants. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/secondhand-smoke-really-hurt-baby/]

  1. Unsafe sleep practices

Because SIDS typically occurs during sleep, it’s crucial to have a safe environment for your baby during naps and at night. The ABC’S of Safe Sleep is an easy guide to remember.

Babies sleep best

Alone, on their

Back, in a

Crib, or other

Safe Sleep Surface

This SIDS Awareness Month, resolve to make a difference for babies in your area. Learn how you can help save lives. [link to http://www.bootheelbabies.org/what-you-can-do/]

*Children’s Hospital, St. Louis, Mo.

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.


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.

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.  🙂

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.

Mother-to-Mother changes lives in the Bootheel



This month, Bootheel Babies & Families is very pleased to feature Melinda Sweeney, Executive Director of the Regional Health Foundation. Melinda has been an active part of Bootheel Babies & Families’ Community Steering Committee for years, and her organization’s Mother-to-Mother program is a current Grantee serving women and babies in Stoddard, Dunklin and Pemiscot counties.

Regional Healthcare Foundation is very proud of its Mother-to-Mother (M2M) program, which offers a hand up…not a hand out… to expecting or parenting young women.

The M2M program began in Dexter in 2002 when a group of very special women worked out of the trunks of their cars to provide mentoring and support to young first-time moms. The primary goal of the program is the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Today, M2M serves close to 50 young Stoddard County women and their families. M2M moms meet with their mentors, attend social and educational activities, earn “baby bucks” to spend in the Baby Boutique, partake of the food pantry and receive educational and career counseling.  Recently the program has been able to extend its educational and career counseling services to significant others as well.

A young woman is eligible to enroll in the M2M program if she lives in Stoddard County, is expecting a child or already has a child under the age of one, is 24 years old or younger, has or is in the process of earning her high school diploma or HSE certificate and has no legal issues.

M2M’s Multi-Phase Approach

M2M is a multi-phase program with different expectations of the participants in each stage.




As a Missouri Foundation for Health Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative grantee, M2M has been able to offer our Best For Baby educational program to moms through the health departments in Stoddard, Pemiscot, and Dunklin Counties. Our nurse educator offers three sessions: Prenatal Care, Keeping Baby Safe and Healthy and Coping After Baby’s Birth. Because Safe Sleep is a primary focus of the Best for Baby program, participants who complete the Safe Sleep lesson are given a safe sleep kit, and those in Stoddard and Dunklin Counties are given to opportunity to receive pack n plays. They must agree to allow a nurse educator to come to their homes and help set up the pack n plays and evaluate the safety of their babies’ sleep environments.

Mother-to-Mother continues to grow and change as our young moms and their families face new challenges.  Substance abuse in general, and the opioid crisis in particular, have and will continue to negatively impact our community. The Mother-to-Mother staff is looking at providing substance abuse prevention activities as part of our educational activities.

During the past four years, I have seen many M2M “success stories” write themselves. The biggest successes are evidenced by young women who…through their hard work and determination, and a little help from M2M, have nurtured healthy, happy, safe children. Many of these young women have graduated high school and college. They are teachers, nurses, insurance agents, physical therapy assistants, and the list goes on.

Many of these success stories are still “in progress.”  The M2M staff, Teresa, Chris, Rachelle, Nancy, Linda, Sherry and Kellie, are helping to write those stories. I am very proud of them and all the M2M moms and their families.

Want to get involved? Find out how you too can make a difference in the lives of Bootheel babies: Contact Us 

About Melinda:

Melinda Sweeney is the Executive Director of the Regional Healthcare Foundation (RHF) in Dexter, Missouri.  She was originally hired in 2014 as a member of the Mother-to-Mother staff.  Mother-to-Mother is one of two flagship programs at RHF. Melinda is a member of the Bootheel Babies and Families steering committee, and the Mother-to-Mother Program is a past and current IMRI grantee and BBF partner.

Why you should keep your baby’s crib blanket free


Have you ever woken up to realize you’re so tangled in the comforter you can’t move? It takes a few seconds of kicking and turning before you free yourself.

Now imagine you can’t kick or roll over, and the blanket is blocking your nose and mouth. You’re trapped.

This is a very real possibility for an infant who is covered by a blanket during sleep – with the wrong move, he or she cannot breathe. That’s why it’s best to keep blankets out of your baby’s crib.

Blanket-free sleeping may seem impractical during Southeast Missouri winters. After all, you must ensure your baby stays warm. Here are some blanket alternatives to keep your little one toasty and comfortable without increasing his or her risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS):
Sleep sack – This wearable blanket is designed so your infant will not become tangled. When choosing a sleep sack, make sure your baby has plenty of leg room to kick and stretch.
Swaddling – For infants less than two months old, this way of snugly wrapping babies can calm them and promote sleep. Learn more about safe swaddling.
Sleeper – This soft, warm garment – basically a onesie with legs and sleeves – keeps your baby cozy without a blanket.

Other uses for baby blankets

Even though keeping blankets in a crib is not safe, do not get rid of receiving blankets and baby quilts just yet. They are perfectly fine to use for play mats during tummy time or to put on the floor while your baby moves around. Just keep a careful eye on your infant, and move him or her to a safe sleep surface if he or she gets tired.

For other tips on how to ensure your baby sleeps safely, 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.

5 tried-and-true ways to help your newborn sleep at night

Infants sleep a lot – usually between 16 and 17 hours a day. They also wake frequently, sleeping only around two to four hours at a time. It’s important to find ways to help your baby sleep so that you can get some rest too. Here are a few techniques decades of parents have found successful.

  1. Swaddle your newborn.

Babies are born with a startle reflex that causes them to occasionally jerk awake. Wrapping infants securely in a swaddling blanket or sleep sack can keep them snug and prevent the startle reflex. Learn how to safely swaddle your baby.

  1. Keep daytime naps short.

If your baby spends extra time snoozing during the day, he or she will sleep less at night. Try limiting daytime sleep to around two hours per nap. Wake your infant after the limit, feed him or her and play for a while before the next nap.

  1. Follow a bedtime routine.

A familiar routine about the same time every night will help your baby recognize when it’s time to go to sleep. Help your baby relax with a warm bath, then sing a lullaby or read a story.

  1. Turn on white noise.

Thumps, talking and other sounds can keep a newborn awake. Help drown out noises by turning on white noise in your baby’s room. A crib aquarium, white noise machine or fan placed near – but not inside – your child’s crib should help him or her fall and stay asleep.

  1. Let your baby self-soothe.

Lay your infant on his or her back in a crib while he or she is still slightly awake. This will allow your baby to learn how to fall asleep without you holding him or her. When your baby wakes during the night, wait a few minutes before picking him or her up to see if your infant will fall back asleep on his or her own.

Another way to help your newborn sleep soundly and safely is by following the ABC’S of Safe Sleep. Learn them here: http://www.bootheelbabies.org/safe-sleep.

Always speak with a medical provider if you have questions or concerns about your baby’s health and well-being.


Does secondhand smoke really hurt my baby?

No doubt, you’ve seen posters and billboards explaining how smoking while pregnant places babies at risk. Once a baby is born, the issues with smoking around him or her do not go away. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, secondhand smoke causes tens of thousands of deaths each year. Every time your infant nestles close to a smoker, he or she is exposed to 4,000 chemicals, 50 of which are known to cause cancer. Here is how secondhand smoke affects your baby.

Impairs infants’ breathing

Until three or four months of age, babies do not develop the reflex necessary to breathe through their mouth. Since secondhand smoke can block nasal passages, it is especially dangerous for young infants. Even worse, filaments that keep the respiratory tract clear can become paralyzed by smoke. This means an infant exposed to secondhand smoke will likely have trouble getting enough oxygen, which leads to respiratory infections and an increased risk of SIDS.

Damages babies’ hearts

Multiple studies have proven that smoking around an infant can affect his or her heart rate. Researchers also discovered that high-density lipoproteins (HDL), more commonly known as “good cholesterol,” is lower in smokers’ children.

Decreases brain development

A baby’s brain develops at an amazingly fast pace as he or she discovers more about the world. Smoking around an infant can hinder his or her development. Just as a lack of oxygen due to secondhand smoke blocks the respiratory tract, it has also been shown to harm the brain, particularly the area that controls breathing. As a result, a baby’s risk of SIDS increases with exposure to smoke.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Smoking contributes to infant mortality. If you are a smoker but do not want your child to be exposed to harmful chemicals from cigarettes, visit our Resource Guide to find organizations with smoking cessation programs. No-cost smoking workshops may be available in your area.

Always speak with a medical provider if you have questions or concerns about your baby’s health and well-being.