Baby boxes to be given out to reduce risk of SIDS


AUSTIN (KXAN) — By the end of the year the Austin-Travis County EMS will have about 700 Smitten Baby Bassinet Boxes. The boxes are safe sleep spaces for babies and help reduce the risk of SIDS in babies six months old and younger. 

“It’s a very portable regardless of where you’re at. If you’re taking a shower, if you’re going to do laundry you can bring the baby box with you,” Capt. Randy Chhabra with Austin-Travis County EMS said. “When you’re exhausted, if something is not convenient, you might not take advantage of it.”

This week KXAN learned that a 5-month-old baby boy died at in-home daycare back in May in northwest Austin from sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

“I saw paramedics crying, I saw firefighters crying, I saw seasoned detectives crying and I saw Judge crying going back to his truck. I mean it just it leaves no one unmarked when it’s over,” explained Williamson County Justice of the Peace Judge Bill Gravell who was involved with the case “I see my grandkids and it’s my job to make sure that we get it right. I’m literally writing the last chapter of their life.”

He ordered an autopsy and even toxicology. This is the second SIDS case he’s ruled in the last four months.

“After every single test and exam was done, the only determination that we had was Sudden Infant Death,” Judge Gravell said. “When you get to the end and you can’t put your thumb on it and you rule SIDS, that’s a bit disheartening, because you want to rule out everything.”

There were no blankets or toys in the bassinet of the five-month-old who died in daycare. Judge Gravell said it was just a tragedy. 

Chhabra says the most important thing is to keep a baby in a crib, bassinet or baby box and make sure the mattress is firm. He says also make sure there are not blankets and toys in there with the baby. “We really need to be putting our kids down on their back and letting them learn to sleep that way and once they’re ready to roll and sleep on their stomach then they can,” Chhabra said.

The baby boxes will be given to parents during the Safe Baby Academy classes held several times a month. Beginning in September, Chhabra said they will also begin a study looking into safe sleep behavior. They will talk to parents before classes and then several months after they have the baby to see how they are incorporating safe sleeping. 

Travis County stopped tracking SIDS cases in 2014. At that point, the Travis County Medical Examiner said the deaths are being ruled undetermined.

Chief Medical Examiner J. Keith Pinckard says that is because SIDS isn’t something you can track, like cancer or heart disease. He says for many years, cases that were accidental asphyxia deaths due to the baby’s position had been called SIDS. The change from SIDS to undetermined has been gradual, and Pinckard notes, if the death is possible asphyxia, but not positive, it is listed as undetermined.

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