Group campaigns to end preventable infant deaths

In the past three years, at least 154 infants have died in Jefferson County as a result of unsafe sleeping or abusive head trauma. Most often a shaken baby.

These are the two leading causes of death among infants. Friday marks the beginning of a new campaign, aimed at saving the lives of infants through prevention.

The good news, is better education and awareness have caused these type deaths to decrease by 54% in the last three years.

However, that's not good enough.

Child advocates say these deaths are 100% preventable.

Kelley Parris-Barnes, director of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse Prevention, wants to eradicate preventable infant deaths.

"Every single one of these babies can be saved," says Parris-Barnes. "That's the number one and number two reasons these children are dying. Unsafe sleeping being number one and abusive head trauma being number two."{}The Alabama Department of Child Abuse Prevention and Impact Family Counseling, a private organization that works with young mothers, are determined to change those numbers.

George Casey works with at-risk mothers to show the dangers of shaking a baby. The group uses a simulator doll to illustrate what happens. "It's very, very easy to injure or kill a young infant, just from a simple little shake," Casey explains. "(The doll) shows there's different parts of the brain that light up, that show the different parts of the injury from the shake. So if (you) shake it some more, the baby has stopped crying, because the baby is now dead."The campaign has a simple message. "Never shake a baby. Ever. For any reason," Parris-Barnes says. "And also, the only safe place for an infant to sleep is on its back in a crib."

Since 2009 more than 130 infant deaths have occurred from unsafe sleeping in Jefferson County.

The most common death comes when a baby sleeps in a bed with an adult instead of its own crib.

Impact family counseling will provide a free crib to young mothers in need. In the last three years, more than 500 cribs have been distributed.

Group leaders say it's one step to prevent a preventable death.

Casey says, "We want people to know that there's a safe environment for you to put your child in. If you don't have the resources to provide a bed or special crib for them."

anyone in need of a free crib can contact Impact Family Counseling by clicking here or by calling (205)-916-0123.

For more information about the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention, click here.