COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Coroner says a majority of infant deaths while sleeping are preventable. So Tuesday Gary Watts launched the Sleep RIGHT Through the Night infant safety campaign.
"This is a situation that touches everybody," Watts says. "It touches the heartstrings any time a child dies. And it's particularly heartbreaking when you have a situation when you know it was absolutely, totally preventable to keep that child from dying."
Watts says researchers have learned that a majority of deaths attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome were the result of an unsafe sleeping environment. Since 2012, Watts says 16 infants died in Richland County from unsafe sleeping environments.
"We have a lot of issues with co-sleeping, where the infant is in bed with either a caregiver or parent or another sibling, a dog," Watts says. "Co-sleeping with a child is one step, and I guarantee you if we could stop it and put in a safe environment, we can eliminate some of these unsafe sleep deaths."
Watts says its more about stopping cultural habits than educating parents, most of whom already know how to put their infant to sleep.
"I think it's a cultural issue in a lot of cases,""he says. "Where their grandmama did it and their mama did it so they're gonna' do it. And so we're trying to break through that."
"I know you did it. I know your mother did it. But it's not the right way. Let's not do this anymore."
Sleep RIGHT Through the Night reminds parents of the ABC's: Always alone, babies should sleep on their backs and clear cribs of blankets, pillows and toys.
Watts' office is offering free monthly workshops for parents and caregivers. The first workshop is September 13. Click here for details or call Ann Neely at (803) - 576-3364.
Lamar advertising donated seven highly visible billboards throughout Columbia to spread the message.
"It's a serious issue but it is one that can be fixed. We don't have a lot of opportunities at the coroner's office to fix things," he says. "But this is one of them. We can fix this."