The Cherokee County Child Fatality Review Committee spurred the creation of the Infant Sleep Safety Program by Cherokee County Safe Kids and the county health department.
"The numbers were staggering," Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services Capt. Chad Arp, a review committee member and coordinator for Safe Kids, said of the number of infants who were dying while sleeping. "That is killing more infants than anything else."
The Child Fatality Review Committee, which tracks deaths of all children younger than 18, reported two cases of infants dying in sleep-related incidents in 2003, which rose to five in 2004, two each in 2005 and 2006, six in 2007 and four each in 2008 and 2009.
Sleep-related causes of death include asphyxia and sudden unexpected infant death, SUID while co-sleeping, sudden infant death syndrome and entrapment.
So far this year, there only has been one such incident, according to Ashley Snow, a county assistant district attorney and a member of the review committee.
"We look for trends in the types of fatalities and if prevention efforts are not addressed in out county, we try to implement them," she said of the committee's responsibilities.
Arp said the Infant Sleep Safety Program was implemented to address the issue of sleep-related deaths among infants.
The initiative, which started last summer, includes a crib distribution program. Free cribs are given to families who can't afford them, and 30 have been distributed so far.
Arp said educational material about sleep safety also has been placed in most pediatrician offices in the county.
"We are raising awareness. That awareness can make a difference," said Arp, who is the county's fire safety educator. "If we keep up what we are doing, we can see a difference in five years."
The committee also is making itself visible in the community by appearing at events such as the upcoming Cherokee County Night Out at 5 p.m. on Oct. 7 at the New Life Worship Center at 154 Lakeside Dr. in Canton.
Desiree Miller, a baby planner from Towne Lake and founder of www.bottlestobritches.com, said sleep safety is of great concern to the baby care industry.
"There has been a huge industry-wide effort to get the word out on safe sleeping tips," she said, adding that those tips include placing babies to sleep on their back, keeping cribs free of everything other than the base sheet and a firm mattress. She said safety experts even suggest leaving bumpers and blankets out of the crib.
For information about the Infant Sleep Safety Program, call Arp at (770) 721-7808 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.