Program connects families in need with cribs

August 25, 2009

By Laura Geggel

Those wanting to help battle Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can make monetary donations to the Northwest Infant Survival Alliance. Contributed

Those wanting to help battle Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can make monetary donations to the Northwest Infant Survival Alliance. Contributed

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can devastate a family, but those working in the King County Sheriff’s Office said they realize many SIDS crises can be averted with a few simple steps.

The office has partnered with the Northwest Infant Survival Alliance to provide cribs for families in need in areas around Issaquah that they patrol. Deputies patrol areas like Klahanie, the Renton Highlands, Southeast Issaquah-Hobart Road and west of the city limits along Newport Way.

If deputies notice an infant in a sleeping environment that could lead to a SIDS death or an accidental suffocation, they will connect that family with the alliance and a free crib.

“Normally, we go out on infant death,” said Scott Dungan, a community service officer in the Special Assault Unit. “We wanted to be able to catch it at the other end and help prevent infant death.”

Seven cribs have been donated since the partnership between the sheriff’s office and the alliance began in April.King County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert helped at the partnership’s April 24 launch, presenting a King County Council proclamation in honor of SIDS Awareness Day.

“We had a neighbor whose baby died of SIDS,” Lambert said. “I’ve been involved with it ever since.”

People wishing to refer friends or family, or who wish to see if they qualify for a free crib, should call the Northwest Infant Survival Alliance.

“There are families out there who don’t have money to buy a crib and they might not realize the importance of considering that option,” Dungan said. “I’m not saying that every baby needs to have a crib, but we are really seeing some infant deaths in King County, and they’re SIDS or accidental suffocation deaths.”

In 2008, about 80 infants died of SIDS in Washington state. Of those deaths, about 30 were in King County.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve seen that number go up,” said Inga Paige, the executive director of the Northwest Infant Survival Alliance.

Researchers are still studying the causes of SIDS. In 1994, the U.S. Public Health Service partnered with several organizations for the Back to Sleep campaign, encouraging parents to lay infants on their backs for naptime. As of 2002, SIDS deaths in America have decreased almost 50 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health Web site.

Still, SIDS is the No. 1 cause of death for infants between 1 month and 1 year of age. Infants of black and American-Indian descent appear to be at two-times to three-times greater risk for SIDS than Caucasian babies.

Factors decreasing SIDS include laying a baby on its back on a firm mattress when it goes to sleep. Caregivers should be sure to clear the baby’s sleeping area of pillows or stuffed animals that could fall on or suffocate the infant.

“It doesn’t take a lot for a baby to stop breathing, nor does it take long,” Paige said.

Overheating also appears to lead to SIDS, as more babies die of SIDS in the winter when parents bundle them up.

Caregivers should refrain from sharing a bed with babies, as the baby could overheat, fall off the bed or get unintentionally smothered.

“One option is to have a crib right next to the parent’s bed, where mom or dad can easily reach out and touch the infant,” Dungan said.

A smoke-free home also reduces the risk of SIDS, according to the Stanford Medical School Department of Pediatrics.

The Northwest Infant Survival Alliance relies on grants and monetary donations. Information about how to donate is on the organization’s Web page. Donations are used to buy cribs from Graco Children’s Products, which offers the alliance a discount, Paige said.

Get help

Northwest Infant Survival Alliance


Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 221, or Comment at

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