UHC recognized nationally for safe infant sleep program

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — United Hospital Center has become the first in the state to be recognized by the National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program as a “Safe Sleep Champion” for their work educating families with new children about the importance of infant safe sleep.

Romeo and King hold up the hospital's recognition from the National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program
Romeo and King hold up the hospital’s recognition from the National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program

Becky King, Co-Coordinator of the Our Babies: Safe and Sound campaign in the state says the designation is a testament to the staff working diligently to create a hospital-wide program.

“They have a infant safe sleep policy that the staff follows and they are also providing parents with education materials that have been approved by their review board.”

The certification program was created by Cribs for Kids, a Pittsburgh-based organization that works to raise awareness of the number of preventable infant deaths are caused by unsafe sleeping habits.

“We lose a baby every 10 days in West Virginia because of unsafe sleep practices,” King said. “But the good news is it can be prevented through education.”

UHC’s policy began as one of the pilot projects of Our Babies: Safe and Sound.

Lee Ann Romeo, RN childbirth educator, explained that after the staff was on the same page, they began coaching up new parents with a variety of resources.

“A hospital packet, hands-on education, plus we do have video that the parents can watch on our educational TV channel at the hospital,” she said. “So hopefully, we’re sending them home already prepared.”

The recognition of the hospital is well-timed, as Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin once again proclaimed September as Infant Safe Sleep Month in the state with First Lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin touring the state, warning residents that unsafe sleep conditions are a leading cause of death for West Virginia’s babies in the first year of life.

When it comes to safe sleeping habits, King said new parents can keep it as simple as “ABC.”

“Your baby should sleep alone, baby should sleep on his or her back and ‘C,’ baby should be in a safe crib. A safe crib means an empty crib, no bumper pads, no heavy blankets.”

September is also known as Infant Mortality Awareness Month nationwide, with the rates continuing to drop in the country.

However, West Virginia’s rate remains high at 13th in the nation, or seven infant deaths per thousand live births.

Congenital anomalies, pre-term births, maternal complication and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome are the factors most commonly associated with infant mortality.

Through the safe sleep initiative, proper prenatal care and regular screenings, the staff at UHC hope to prevent as many deaths as possible.

More on the Our Babies: Safe and Sound program can be found at the organization’s website.

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