Tag Archives: SIDS

What’s your story?

what is your story question in vintage wooden letterpress printing blocks, stained by color inks, isolated on white

Do you have a story you’d like to share about the importance of prenatal care? Have you been involved in a successful program and want to share your story? Do you belong to an organization in Shelby County that could benefit others to ensure their baby is healthy? We are looking for personal stories for the IMRI blog, and we’d like to feature you as a guest blogger! Send an email to ShelbycountyIMRI@gmail.com and someone from our team will be in contact with you.


Reflections of a Former Teen Statistic

Reflections of a Former Teen Statistic

Written by: C. Denise Richardson, Healthy Shelby Volunteer

Co-Written by: Victoria Williamson, Healthy Shelby Program Coordinator

Twenty-five years ago this fall, young mother C. Denise Richardson put her baby daughter to bed for the last time. The seemingly healthy 10-week-old infant didn’t wake up the next morning.

For Richardson, the baby’s death was a personal heartbreak. For Shelby County, the tragedy contributed to one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Despite recent improvements, Shelby County continues to have a high percentage of children who die before their first birthday. In 2013, the rate was 9.2 out of 1000 live births in Shelby County compared to 6.8 in Tennessee and 5.9 in the U.S.

Researchers have determined that one cause of infant mortality is sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS. SIDS can affect any family, no matter the socioeconomic background. Healthy Shelby and the Shelby County Health Department have partnered to lower infant mortality by teaching parents about safe sleep practices to help combat this unexplainable death. Safe sleep is explained using the ABC’s: Babies should sleep ALONE, on their BACKS, and in a CRIB.
When Richardson’s daughter died, infants were often put to sleep on their stomachs. Two years later, the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending that babies be placed on their backs at naptime and bedtime. Since that recommendation in 1992, the annual SIDS rate has declined more than 50 percent. Richardson shares her story here in hopes that it will help prevent other infant deaths.

“When I enter grocery stores, shopping malls, education institutions, physical fitness facilities, and especially social media sites, I’m reminded of my youthful days. Youthful days full of hope, promise, goals, and, oh yeah…high risk pregnancy. It’s definitely a “hard pill to swallow” witnessing a perpetual cycle of community dysfunction.

When I gave birth to my first child, it wasn’t that uncommon for teenage girls to become pregnant with their first or second child. Some young ladies experienced numerous pregnancies without regard to the high costs, care, and lifestyle changes pregnancy brings on. I remember my mom’s look of heartache once it became clear that her only child was pregnant…again. I was twenty-one and pregnant with my second child. No prenatal care with the first pregnancy, and that child was born at twenty-seven weeks weighing 2 pounds 3 ounces. Happily, that baby is a happy, healthy adult today.

But, this child was different. I kept my appointments. I wasn’t as ashamed concerning my pregnancy as I had been with the first pregnancy. I realized so much about my young physical body that I had not previously known. I had an incompetent cervix which also contributed to my preterm birth. This pregnancy would be different. I could feel it! I was doing what I should be doing with physician visits, healthier eating habits and prenatal vitamin consumption.

Boy was I wrong! How wrong was I? My baby was premature, but she was a healthy 4-pound, 5-ounce baby girl born July 10, 1990. She died on September 23, 1990. I remember this day as though it were today. The anguish and disgust I experienced coping with the police investigation, probing neighbors, and disheartened family and friends. My baby girl succumbed to that malicious, mysterious, and unexplainable baby killer, SIDS.

In the early nineties, the research concerning SIDS was still new. However, progress to pinpoint measurable triggers or contributory factors continues to be made. In many instances, the ABCs of healthy sleep habits for both parent and child assist in preventing the SIDs syndrome. When my baby passed, she was, in fact, on her tummy. There are many practical resources and practices pregnant mothers can practice to lessen the likelihood of SIDs in their home, family, or community. These are my reflections, and I am an only child whose mother was/is a registered mental health nurse. I was a former teen statistic, and I am part of the village to empower others, especially young girls, through various health education platforms.”

Remember your ABCs when you are putting a baby to sleep. ALONE, on the BACK, and in a CRIB.

Do You Know Your ABC’s?


Do you know your ABC’s? No, not those ABC’s! Take a moment to watch the 30-second video below to learn more about the ABC’s of Safe Sleep.

Has your life been affected by infant mortality? Live in Shelby County, TN? Willing to share your story as our guest blogger? If interested, send us an email to shelbycountyimri@gmail.com.

Great News! There’s an App for That!

Sherry Bates


Sherry Bates, B.S., MBA

Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative Coordinator

Shelby County Health Department

How convenient would it be to have information right at your fingertips?!  In an effort to join the ever-growing world of technology, The Shelby County Health Department created the FREE B4BabyLife mobile app to encourage healthy pregnancies and healthy families as well as to help prevent infant mortality.

This app is a great resource for information on infant mortality reduction topics, including what to expect before, during and after pregnancy. Once inside B4BabyLife, you will find information about the importance of breastfeeding, early prenatal care, exercise, family planning, health insurance coverage, healthy homes, injury prevention, newborn screenings, nutrition, parenting classes, pre-term labor, postpartum depression, safe sleep practices, tobacco cessation, well-child exams, WIC and many other topics.

B4BabyLife also provides hours and locations of all public health clinics in Shelby County.

The B4BabyLife mobile app is FREE for both Android and iPhone users. To get B4BabyLife, simply go to your app store on your device and type in “B4BabyLife.”

Tell your co-workers. Tell your friends. Tell your family members. Are you a nurse or physician? Be sure to tell your patients.

Download the FREE B4BabyLife mobile app today!



Who and What is IMRI?

Taylor Headshot

By: Michelle Taylor, M.D., M.S.

Deputy Administrator for Maternal and Child Health Program

Shelby County Health Department 

The Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative (IMRI) is a collaborative of civic, government, non-profit, academic, and community leaders united in fighting infant mortality. Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his/her first birthday. The IMRI team, as a group of concerned leaders and residents of Shelby County, are committed to working on reducing infant deaths in the county by looking at the factors that may contribute to the infant mortality rate (the number of infant deaths before age 1 per 1,000 live births). These factors include prenatal care access, smoking during pregnancy, sudden unexplained infant death (SUID), preterm births, low birth weight births, short period of time between births, and low breastfeeding rates. By examining these and other factors over the last several years, the Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative has sought to increase awareness of infant mortality in Shelby County and encourage community engagement in the work of reducing infant mortality. The IMRI team consists of representatives from the following organizations:

Baptist Memorial Healthcare

Binghampton Development Corporation

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

Choices-Memphis Center for Reproductive Health Christ

Community Health Services

Church Health Center

Early Success Coalition

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Frayser Community Development Corporation

Frayser Interfaith Association

Healthy Shelby

Hickory Hill Redevelopment Corporation

Impact Ministries

Just Care Family Network

Life Communications, LLC

March of Dimes

Memphis Health Center, Inc.

Memphis Teen Vision (MemTV)

Methodist LeBonheur HealthCare

Neighborhood Christian Centers, Inc.

Rangeline Neighborhood Community Development Corporation

Regional One Health

Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition

Shelby County Health Department

Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth

Shelby County Schools

Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth

Tennessee Department of Children’s Services

Tennessee Department of Health

The First Year Foundation Incorporated

The Urban Child Institute

United Way of the Mid-South

University of Memphis, Department of Anthropology

University of Memphis Center for Research on Women (CROW)

University of Memphis School of Public Health

University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Division of Neonatology

Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis

Fran Craddock

Rosanna Stepney