Sikeston, Mo. –  Over the last 10 years, 151 babies died in the Bootheel, and 28% of those deaths were related to being born too early. There is no single cause of premature birth, but research shows that a mother’s mental health and the stress she endures from her environment can strongly impact the development of her child. As September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month, Bootheel Babies & Families is starting a discussion about what we can all do to support mothers and caregivers so babies survive their first year of life and grow up healthy in our region.

“Bootheel Babies & Families works to reduce infant mortality in our area by focusing on three primary causes: prenatal and postnatal healthcare, safe sleep practices, and substance use and misuse,” said Tracy Morrow, executive director. “As part of those three focus areas, we know that mental health can be a key contributor to the overall wellbeing of both mothers and babies in the Bootheel. We’re committed to this cause and making it easier for families to access programs in their county that contribute to positive health overall.”

Bootheel Babies & Families, a community initiative dedicated to reducing infant mortality, recently restructured in order to make it easier for Bootheel residents to locate and access needed resources. Under this new structure, hub partners were identified to carry out the work in each of six Bootheel counties: Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Scott, Stoddard. The hub partners can be accessed at no cost, connecting families with free and affordable resources that include counseling, infant supplies, healthcare and education. This approach will make it easier to identify trends and unmet needs quickly, and be more responsive and supportive to families.

In recognition of September as Infant Mortality Awareness Month, Bootheel Babies & Families has additional outreach and educational efforts planned to spread awareness about the Bootheel’s high Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and the fight to save babies’ lives. Flyers, posters and social media efforts will help educate the public about the signs of depression, anxiety and toxic stress in caregivers and provide information on how they can improve their emotional, psychological and social well-being.

Infant mortality rate is measured as the number of children younger than age 1 who have died per 1,000 live births in any given area. Bootheel Babies & Families is focused on improving the IMR in Dunklin, New Madrid, Mississippi, Pemiscot, Stoddard and Scott counties, where the IMR has averaged as high as 11.7. In 2018, the Bootheel’s IMR was 6.1, lower than Missouri’s 2018 IMR of 6.5 but significantly higher than the national average of 5.9. Missouri’s Bootheel saw 11 infant deaths in 2018: five from suffocation, five from illness and one from abuse.

Bootheel Babies & Families is supported by the Missouri Foundation for Health and led by community stakeholders, partner organizations, medical professionals, educators, parents, caregivers and others committed to reducing the Bootheel’s IMR.

To learn more about Bootheel Babies & Families or to find resources for a loved one, visit