A mother's fight: promoting SIDS research, education and awareness

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) We’re learning more about a potential breakthrough in Sudden Infant Death research, but also about the importance of proper education and awareness for something that's too often not discussed.

There’s a new study, where researchers discovered the first evidence of a biological explanation for SIDS; something called orexin, which is responsible for regulating sleep arousal.

Experts tell us while this research is still very preliminary, it's very promising.

And for one mom, it's become her mission to help raise money for research like this, in an effort to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome from taking another baby's life.

"The biggest love I've ever known in my life, is when I saw my son for the first moment. And I can't even explain that. And for that to be taken away from someone, it just, it shouldn't happen. And I would love to do anything I can to prevent that."

Kyra Oliver's son, Hayes, died when he was only four and a half months old.

"He was at the babysitter's home, and I received a phone call saying that he wasn't breathing,” she said.

Doctors told Oliver her son died of SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. And just four days after his death, she started a foundation in his honor: the Hayes Foundation, which turned into so much more, including a campaign called This Side Up. She designed a onesie with a very powerful message.

“It’s almost like, life tips, on the back of a onesie. And they’re great for hospitals, we have a lot of hospitals jump on board with using these onesies as tools within the hospital, not just for new moms and families but for nurses as well,” Oliver said.

Life tips that include guidelines for safe sleep, reducing the risk for SIDS.

Most parents know that having their baby sleep on his or her back is an important factor in preventing sleep related deaths. Something equally as important is keeping the entire sleep space free of clutter, including stuffed animals, toys, bumper pads, comforters, sheets and blankets, and even hats, which can fall off and become a suffocation hazard.

Experts say this part of the ABC’s of safe sleep for newborns and babies up to a year-old.
A. Babies should always sleep alone
B. Always on their back
C. They need to be in a crib that’s completely free of clutter.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently put out new guidelines. http://www.cjsids.org/about-us/whats-new/482-american-academy-of-pediatrics-announces-new-safe-sleep-recommendations-to-protect-against-sids-sleep-related-infant-deaths.html

Experts say it’s extremely dangerous to sleep with a baby on a couch or an arm chair.

"The majority of the deaths that we see in infants under a year of age are actually accidental suffocation and strangulation deaths due to all of the things in those unsafe sleep environments," said Jill Lucas Drakeford, Safe Kids Southwest Virginia Coordinator.

She says it takes just two minutes for an infant who doesn’t have sufficient oxygen to start to die.

They also say babies should be sleeping exclusively in their own crib. They should never be left sleeping in car seats, swings, or bounce seats.

"We do say that if you are going to feed your baby or if you're going to lay with your baby especially during feeding time in the middle of the night, immediately, as soon as you wake up, you've got to get them into their own crib or bassinette," said Lucas Drakeford.

The new recommendations also tell parents if they are going to have infants in adult sleep spaces, co-sleeping, etc., there can’t be any clutter in the adult beds either, including blankets and pillows.

Kyra Oliver says she knows education, awareness, and research are key in preventing tragedies like the one she experienced 15 years ago.

"I know we're doing a good thing when someone walks up to me and says you know, hey, if you weren't telling this story, I'm not sure what I would do. You know, like, you're teaching me, I have a daughter, I'm so grateful that she's here, and if it weren't for you, she might not be. You know you're making an impact when people share that information with you,” she said.

Oliver and her team at the newly-merged CJ First Candle, the leading national non-profit, dedicated to SIDS research and education, are now looking to the future.

They give grants to different reputable organizations conducting more research in this area.