Cribs for Kids offers counseling, portable cribs to those in need

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 5, 2013 

Alexis Cherry slept on her stomach when she was a baby, but she won't let her son, Evan.

"I have learned it is safer for him to sleep on his back and so that is what I do," Cherry said.

It is one of the bits of information the 22-year-old Columbus woman has received from Cribs For Kids, a national safe sleep initiative that provides grants to organizations to reduce the risk of infant sleep-related death.

Locally, it is coordinated by Healthy Families Georgia, which Jennifer Hayes is program manager.

Among the sponsors are District Attorney Julia Slater's office, the Columbus Consolidated Government, St. Francis Hospital and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension's Positive Parenting Program.

Cherry's 3-month-old child sleeps in a portable crib given to her by Cribs For Kids.

A family support worker Kristy Claxton makes visits to her home.

"We talk about child development and child safety issues," Claxton explained.

Proper nutrition for mother and child is at the top of the list.

Cherry, who is single and currently unemployed, said if she had not received the crib from the organization, her baby likely would have slept in the bed with her.

"I have learned that is one of the worst things you can do," Cherry said.

She said she has also learned that the crib should have a tight fitting sheet and to not allow a blanket near her baby's head.

"They told me that no pillows or toys should be in the crib with the sleeping child," Cherry said.

"Some people use part of the crib as storage, piling up diapers," said Program Manager Jennifer Hayes. "That should never be done."

Keeping the child warm is important, but Claxton told Cherry to not put too much clothing on the baby because overheating may be harmful.

To be eligible for the program, a woman must be more than 32 weeks pregnant or have a child less than one year of age. There must limited resources to purchase a crib and the family must live in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, which consists of Muscogee, Chattahoochee, Taylor, Talbot, Harris and Marion counties.

Cherry learned about the program while in the hospital.

The local organization received its grant October 2012 and began to give out cribs Dec. 6.

Those interested in finding out more about Cribs For Kids should call Hayes at 706-321-6640 or email her at jenniferhayes@columbusga.org.

According to Cribs For Kids, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and accidental suffocation are the leading causes of death in children one year and younger, and it is babies 2-4 months of age who are at the highest risk.

The American SIDS Institute reports there are 2,500 SIDS deaths per year in the United States.

It is not clear what causes SIDS as most children appear to have been healthy. Even autopsies don't provide a clue.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, research suggests that SIDS occurs when an infant's body has difficulty regulating breathing, cardiovascular functions, and/or body temperature because of an underlying developmental delay or problem in parts of the brain controlling those activities.

On its website, the foundation says some infants who succumb to SIDS are born with an abnormality in regions of the brain that control breathing and the normal arousal response. Infants born with other brain defects, possibly due to genetics, exposure to a toxic substance or lack of oxygen to the fetus (due to cigarette smoking during pregnancy, for example), may also be more susceptible to SIDS.

Scientists believe, the foundation says, that while these developmental defects or delays alone may not cause SIDS, it may occur when these vulnerabilities combine with other events, such as difficulty breathing due to an infection or decreased oxygen intake resulting from bedding that covers the infants face.

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