KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas Department for Children and Families is working to make sure no parent endures the tragedy of losing a baby to a sleep incident.
Twenty-seven state employees recently became certified Safe Sleep Instructors during a training in Wichita thanks to the Kansas Infant Death and SIDS, or KIDS, Network.
The training teaches safe-sleep habits to state employees, who then take what they've learned and teach it to other employees and families.
Safe Sleep Instructor Mary Jean Brown said learning the correct way to put a newborn baby to sleep can make a life-saving difference.
"That's what every parent wants is to have a safe place for their newborn," Brown said.
During the training, instructors focus on the same message — alone, on their back, in a crib, clutter free.
Brown said the no-clutter rule is one of the most surprising, since some first-time parents may believe it is comforting to put items around babies like bumper pads, blankets, mobiles or toys.
Wyandotte County Public Health nurse Veronica Kariuki is one of the employees who took the training.
She's passionate about educating families on safe-sleep practices, such as making sure babies sleep alone rather than with someone.
"Some of the practices that we do, even if it's out of love, can be harmful," Kariuki said. "They can cause us pain in our life, because losing a child is so painful."
Kariuki and Brown hope getting the word out can ultimately lower the infant mortality rate in Kansas.
Between 2013 and 2017, there 154 infant deaths in Johnson County and 94 deaths in Wyandotte County.
Brown said safe-sleep training is the key to lowering those numbers.
"It's something we can help with," Brown said. "We can drop that death rate."
DCF's new Safe Sleep-certified instructors plan to hold community baby showers, which are interactive and educational events, across the state to teach other professionals the best practices.
With the new instructors, there are now 113 active in 56 counties.