BY JANET MANDELSTAM
“Infant mortality is a major issue for Indiana,” says Carol Weiss-Kennedy, director of community health at IU Health Bloomington Hospital. The state ranks in the bottom 10 in the country, with a rate of infant mortality higher than the national average.
“And 14 percent of the babies who die in the state die of suffocation issues related to unsafe beds,” Weiss-Kennedy says, citing statistics from the Indiana State Department of Health. The infants may be sleeping in a parent’s bed or on a couch. “That’s one of the easiest things we can impact,” she says.
Now, with support from the Bloomington Hospital Foundation, IU Health is offering portable cribs to anyone who needs a safe place for an infant to sleep.
The foundation has launched a $100,000 Crib for Every Baby Campaign to fund the purchase of 500 cribs per year for the next five years. Women of Vision, an affinity group of the foundation that focuses on advancing family and women’s health, is raising an additional $10,000 for the project. “The foundation is delighted to partner with Women of Vision and IU Health to meet a pressing need for the community’s most vulnerable population,” says Karin St. John, vice president of the Bloomington Hospital Foundation.
More than 250 cribs were distributed in the first half of 2017. There are no financial qualifications. “All they have to do is say they don’t have a safe bed for the infant,” Weiss-Kennedy says. But participants are required to take a brief safe-sleep class. Program Manager Amy Meek says the class stresses the ABCs of infant sleep: Alone, on their Back, and in their Crib.
There’s an added incentive for pregnant women who smoke. “If the mother stops smoking while pregnant, and remains tobacco free for the first year of the baby’s life, she will receive vouchers redeemable for free diapers,” Meek says.
Eligibility for the program is not limited to mothers. Anyone who cares for an infant can receive a crib. St. John notes that 25 percent of the babies are going home from the hospital with grandparents.
Flyers promoting the program are available in IU Health doctor’s offices. To donate, visit bloomingtonhospitalfoundation.org, select “Give Now,” and choose “Crib for Every Baby.”