BONNERS FERRY — First Responders, midwives and others gathered on Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. for a three-hour course on safe infant sleep practices, as well as neonatal education for babies born in the field, including neonatal resuscitation.
Representatives from Boundary Ambulance, local fire departments, the Sheriff’s Office were there to not only learn how to care for infants born in the field, but also as a line of defense in preventing sleep related infant deaths and SIDS.
“When we talk to this crowd specifically, the EMS fire and police — they have seen it,” explained Liz Montgomery, BS Ed., founder and Executive Director of Inland Northwest SIDS/SUID Foundation. “They have seen the babies who have died, and they are on scene and they really know that the majority of these deaths could be preventable. So they are our biggest advocates for education.”
“They will do whatever they can to get this information out to their communities because it is a horrific experience for anyone to go through — the death of a baby,” said Montgomery, whose own experience began her down the path that led to the founding of the non-profit organization.
Montgomery suffered the loss of her son in 2003 due to sudden unexpected infant death. She turned that tragedy into an opportunity to educate people on safe infant sleep practices, as well as to support people who have suffered a pregnancy, infant, or child loss.
Montgomery taught the first hour of the class, educating people about Safe Sleep. The concept is as simple as the ABCs, yet the information can, and does, save lives.
The letter ‘A’ stands for alone, meaning that the baby needs to sleep in their own space, not with a sibling, parent, or pet.
The letter ‘B’ stands for Back, meaning the baby must sleep on their back. This is contradictory for many people, who used to believe that a baby needed to sleep on their stomach so they didn’t accidentally choke if they spit up. Studies have now proven that is not the case, as their anatomy prevents them from aspirating and the infant is more likely to suffocate if sleeping on their stomach.
The ‘C’ stands for crib. Montgomery stressed the importance of the right kind of crib. Many cribs made prior to 2012 may run the risk of not meeting safety standards. She also discussed many unsafe areas for a child to sleep, like in a bed with a parent, on a couch, or unattended in a swing or car seat.
Montgomery talked about other risks, such as stuffed animals, crib bumpers, overly soft mattresses, and more. All of these items can cause suffocation in infants who are not able to roll off of them.
“It was very informative and I especially liked the Safe Sleep,” said Midwife Joyce Vogel, owner of Family Birth Services, who traveled all the way from Libby, Mont., to attend the class.
Vogel said that she looks forward to sharing the information with her clients and will make plans on how best to pass on the education to new parents.
The second part of the class was taught by Dr. Kathleen Webb, Md FAAP, a retired Neonatologist, which is a pediatrician who specializes in the care of newborns. Webb joined with the organization after working in hospitals and having babies brought to her in the emergency room that had died in the field.
“I saw way to many of these cases, and experienced that heartbreak of having to talk to a parent about their baby who just died,” explained Webb. “It was a horrible feeling to have to go through that time and time again.”
Webb reached a breaking point and said to herself that she never wanted to experience that again.
“It was clear to me that my work in the hospital was not helping these families,” she said. “I needed to get in proactively and address these problems from the educational perspective.”
Webb joined forces with Montgomery.
“Liz is amazing. She is a like a one-woman show. She has done some great work and it is a pleasure to work with her,” said Webb. “My biggest part in all of this is education. I will go and travel with Liz to hospitals around the region and train their staff.”
Webb taught an intensive two-hour class, that was not a certification, but instead a supplemental education to help first responders and others that may be working in the field, help deal with newborns or infants that may need resuscitation. The lessons included such things as the difference between a premature infant and a full-term baby, and the processes involved, like wrapping the premature infant’s body in plastic to protect the delicate, underdeveloped skin.
Webb also stressed to Ventilate the Neonate, explaining that the heart of the newborn, barring extreme circumstances, is generally healthy. With that in mind, the emphasis is on getting the infant to breathe.
The class was set up with an open format and questions and conversations where welcome. Hall Mountain Firefighter Dave Adams asked about how much umbilical cord should be left on the infant, and Webb responded by thanking him for a good question, and said that 2-3 centimeters is good.
Throughout the three hour class, people took the opportunity of the breaks to snack on the spread of food, including a meat and cheese tray, as well as vegetables and dip, all supplied by the Rotary Club of Bonners Ferry.
People also had the opportunity to learn more about Inland Northwest SIDS/SUID Foundation. They were given information packets, as well as information that they could hand out to families in need. They learned about cribs available to parents without a safe place for their baby to sleep.
“We don’t just give out a crib,” said Webb. “It is part of a whole survival kit. When we have a family that is identified as needing a resource, we will provide them with a crib, but we will also provide them with an educational piece with that crib.”
The survival kit includes items such as a room thermometer, a sleep sack, a flyer, a brochure, and a refrigerator magnet.
“We want them to the to have the resources they need in terms of education and support to keep their baby safe,” explained Webb.
At the end of the three hours, people left with more knowledge and printed information in hand.
“It is amazing the knowledge that these people have,” said South Boundary Firefighter Wayne Wilkerson. “It is so important and it is so interesting. This class seemed like it was only 10 minutes to me because it is fascinating. Really cool stuff to know.”
For more information: