MARIETTA - In an average six-month time span, the Memorial Health System will deliver about 375 new babies.
Thanks to a campaign effort by agencies across the state, new parents will leave the hospital better equipped to raise their newborns through the first year of life.
Through the recently launched Safe Sleep is Good4Baby Campaign, the Ohio Hospital Association joined the Ohio Department of Health and other state agencies and is distributing 25,000 safe sleep kits to Ohio hospitals to give to new moms.
The kits, which include everything from a book to a diaper bag, are designed to better educate parents about the importance of safe sleep for infants, and warn of the dangers that can cause Sudden Infant Death syndrome.
"Although many organizations have been working tirelessly to improve the statewide infant mortality rate, Ohio continues to fall behind nationally," said Robert Falcone, vice president of clinical policy and population health for the Ohio Hospital Association, in a press release. "Our campaign approaches this issue in a coordinated and targeted way, educating families of newborns before they leave the hospital."
Of the 107 Ohio hospitals with maternity wards that are participating, Marietta Memorial Hospital received an approximately six-month supply of the kits, which officials said amount to about 375 new mothers.
"We have actually decided to give them to patients prior to discharge, so we can use them to try to educate them on infant deaths," said Christy Illar, education coordinator for the MMH Women and Newborn Unit. "We work on that with them very early on."
The kit includes the "Sleep Baby, Safe and Snug" book, funded by the Ohio Department of Health, that includes all the dos and don'ts when it comes to putting a baby to sleep.
"As they're reading to their baby, they're also learning more about the risks, and it's written by a physician," Illar said.
Also in the kit is a long-sleeved sleeper that reads "This Side Up" on the front to educate parents about the important of putting the baby to sleep on its back.
"Always place the baby on the back to sleep, and the baby needs its own sleep surface, in its own crib or bassinet and not in the couple's bed," said Susan Knotts, clinical nurse manager for the unit. "We also recommend against bumper pads, toys, heavy pillows and anything they can get tangled in. Cribs often have all of that in it, and that's not safe."
An insulated diaper bag with the "ABCs" of safe sleep is also included, which emphasizes the "alone, back, crib" method.
"We can't see what their cribs look like at home, so we try to make it our responsibility to know what to do at home," Illar said.
Knotts said the campaign, along with statewide breast-feeding and other types of birth programs, aims to prevent about 150 deaths per year.
"We really feel that it'll have an impact in hospitals in communities across Ohio," said John Palmer, spokesman for the Ohio Hospital Association.
In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Ohio had the fourth highest infant mortality rate in the country.
Through the initiative, MMH will be able to receive more of the books for free, but will begin looking for grant opportunities and local sponsors to keep purchasing the kits, which Knotts said have about a $20 value.