Tuscola County baby death on Sunday prompts safe sleep discussion

Published: Aug. 12, 2019 at 6:05 PM EDT
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(08/12/19) - The Tuscola County Prosecutor's Office is part of an investigation into the death of a 1-month-old girl.

The infant, born July 6, died at a home in the Fairgrove area on Sunday.

While the Akron-Fairgrove Police Department and Michigan State Police continue to investigate, Prosecutor Mark Reene said it appears the baby girl's death is the result of unsafe sleep practices.

Mother and daughter were in a bed together before the little girl was found not breathing.

"We implore everyone who has a baby, who knows someone who has a baby, to talk about safe sleep practices. There are certain situations where you don't get second chances. This is one of those situations. There's no second chance here and it is a preventable death," Reene said.

After the investigation is complete, it'll be up to Reene and his team to determine if this is a criminal case or a tragic accident.

Reene hopes talking about the 1-month-old's death will start a conversation in other homes.

"What you hope is that in some way there's some good that comes from this and somebody else takes a second and pauses and thinks before I do something which may seem like a decent idea, no matter how tired you are, don't do that," Reene said.

Heidi Churchfield, a registered nurse at Covenant HealthCare, said safe sleep starts with A, B, C.

"Alone, on their back, in a safe place -- a crib, bassinet or pack and play," she said.

Churchfield is the child birth education coordinator and community liaison. She said "alone" means just the baby in the crib, bassinet or pack and play.

"We should not have any toys, stuffed animals, just a firm mattress with a tight fitting sheet. They don't need blankets. They don't need pillows," Churchfield said.

Instead of a blanket, a baby should have on a sleeper or swaddler.

Churchfield said her heart breaks for the Fairgrove-area mother who lost her baby Sunday.

"It's a lot of pain," Churchfield said. "I wonder if these parents have received the education that they deserve and they need."

Every parent is required to learn about safe sleep before they take their newborn home from Covenant and most other hospitals, but Churchfield feels more needs to be done.

"We're not doing well on connecting our families to services. There's home visiting services and every family should have a home visitor," Churchfield said.

Covenant HealthCare provides care to 13 counties in Mid-Michigan. Churchfield said anyone who needs help being connected with those types of services should call her at 989-583-4503 and she will help.

Churchfield added follow-up education at a pediatrician's office or home visit could make all the difference for a sleep-deprived new parent who may be tempted to do what they know isn't safe.

"A lot of times there's that myth out there that it's only going to happen to people who are under the influence, but being exhausted is the same thing," she said.

And while we don't hear about every death, it's a sad reality in Michigan.

"We know that every three days a baby is dying from unsafe safe practices," Churchfield said.

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