GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It is another statistic that makes Mississippi look bad: Highest rate of infant mortality in the country. In South Mississippi, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the most common cause of deaths in babies, according to the State Department of Health.
Mary Craig who is a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Consultant says in 2011, seven of every 1,000 babies born died in the six South Mississippi counties.
"The most important thing for families to remember is safe sleep. We have had a Back to Sleep Program for a number of years and that has made a dramatic decrease in infant death as a result of SIDS," Craig said.
Nearly one in five SIDS deaths in the state occur while an infant is being cared for by someone other than the parent, according to the department of health.
"The baby needs to be placed for sleep on his or her back, there should not be bumpers on their beds, no pillows, no blankets and the baby should be alone in his or her bed. The American Association Pediatric also recommends in new guidelines say the baby should be in the same room as the mother but not the same bed in with the mother."
To raise awareness about the high number of baby deaths, the department of health has paired up with The Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force to form a community action team.
"The more I found out about fetal mortality in the State of Mississippi the more important I knew it was to be involved," Genia Crane Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force Mental Health Projects Manager said.
The team hosts quarterly meetings with different health experts to spread the word about different dangers relating to infant deaths.
"My kids are adults and the way I put them to sleep with a little blanket over them and that is certainly not the safe way. It's surprising how that's changed and the information on that has changed," Crane said. "We have a lot of grandparents raising their grandchildren and it's important to get tips like that out to them."
Another factor contributing to infant deaths is smoke, while most people are aware it's not safe to smoke while pregnant many may do not realize second hand smoke or smoke absorbed in furniture or carpets are also extremely harmful.
Second hand smoke kills 6,200 children in the United States every year, according to Mississippi Tobacco Data.
"Second hand smoke means the baby is exposed to smoke from the mother or father or there is smoke in the home, third hand smoke comes on the furniture or on the floor especially when you have a baby crawling on the floor," Craig said.
If you would like to learn more tips on keeping your baby safe or would like to get involved with the community action team contact Genia Crane with The Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force at 228-206-4177 ext 223 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.