San Antonio Steps Up to Help Babies, Prevent SIDS

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No parent should have to face the sheer agony of losing a baby. But it happened to Servando Salinas and Roxanne Alvarez.

Heaven, daughter of Servando Salinas and Roxanne Alvarez in San Antonio
Heaven, daughter of Servando Salinas and Roxanne Alvarez in San Antonio (via Fox-29)

The San Antonio parents recently spent time at a relative’s house. So Salinas and Alvarez had their eight-month-old daughter, Heaven, sleep in bed with them. When Salinas woke up, he noticed Heaven was not breathing. They called EMS, but the baby was pronounced dead at the scene, according to FOX-29.

“I couldn’t move. I couldn’t stand. I was crying so much,” Salinas told Fox-29.

Sadly, in two San Antonio zip codes—mostly Latino 78203 and 78220—Latina mothers have the highest infant death rates in the state, says a UT System study.

That’s why we are glad to see that San Antonio leaders, health advocates, parents, and groups are stepping up to educate Latino and all parents, provide resources, and raise money for research to reduce SIDS and keep infants safe.

What is SIDS?

SIDS occurs when a baby dies of unexpected reasons, usually while sleeping, before reaching age 1.

About 3,500 babies die of SIDS each year. Texas has the highest rate of infant deaths in the nation. Bexar County’s rate is the highest in Texas, according to Texas Public Radio.

SIDS rates vary substantially within racial/ethnic groups across Texas.

“There is substantial evidence that social, environmental, and economic factors at the community level partially explain this variation,” according to the UT System study on infant mortality. “Socio-economic status of the community, income inequality, and air pollution are three community-level factors that have been found to be related to infant mortality.”

These community factors are certainly at play in the two San Antonio zip codes, where most people are Latino.

Latinos face a big lack of access to support for economic stability, wellness, and education. As such, Latino children often fall behind in school, social development, and physical well-being, according to a Salud America! research review.

“[Understanding] how these factors are playing out across communities in Texas will be an important next step,” according to the UT System study.

How to Stop SIDS

WebMD offers 10 steps to prevent SIDS. The top recommendation is to “put a sleeping baby on his or her back.”

But there’s more to be done.

Why? At Least 27% of Latinos report not having a health provider. This makes it difficult for parents to get educated on SIDS prevention.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

So former State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte of San Antonio started a 5K walk-run event to raise awareness and funds.

Van De Putte lost her grandson, Rex, to SIDS at age 5 months. She said that crib death takes the life of a baby in Bexar County every two and a half weeks. She also said that when her grandson died, there seemed to be no reason for his death, according to Texas Public Radio and KSAT12.

“We don’t know why that he just stopped breathing in the middle of the night,” Van De Putte said.

The 5K walk-run is intended to remember Rex and all babies who have died of SIDS. All the funds are donated to Southwest SIDS, which conducts SIDS research.

About half the deaths here in San Antonio could be prevented. Their entanglements with babies asleep on the sofa, co-sleeping with a parent or grandparent and somebody rolls over and suffocates the baby,

Leticia Van De Putte
SIDS Awareness Advocate, Former Senator

More Actions to Stop SIDS in South Texas

In 2016, local advocates started Baby Education for South Texas (BEST).

baby boxes
Twins sleep in Baby Boxes (photo via Maddie McGarvey for NPR)

BEST is a collaboration of regional leaders in pediatric health, advocacy and education working to keep the children of South Texas safe, especially while they sleep. They work with nursery teams, NICU teams, hospital leaders, and public awareness.

The site also allows parents to sign up for a Baby Box. “Parents watch online videos about SIDS and safe sleep and complete a short quiz. They can pick up a box at a local distribution center or have it mailed to them. The sturdy, portable box comes with a firm foam mattress and tight-fitting sheet; also included are breastfeeding accessories, a onesie, diapers and wipes,” according to NPR.

“Everyone wants a baby box,” Jernica Quiñones of New Jersey told NPR. “I’m excited even if it saves one child.”

Jessica Craven, a San Antonio woman who lost her child to SIDS, is turning her pain into something great for the community.

Craven started a nonprofit, Benjamin’s Right Hand, in 2015 to help parents mourning for their babies that died due to SIDS. Craven works quietly from her house as she makes flower and balloon arrangements for the funeral of families.

Jessica Craven
Jessica Craven (photo via Kin Man Hui /San Antonio Express-News)

Benjamin’s Right Hand work with families coping with the death of child raging from infancy to age 12, according to San Antonio Express-News. So far she has helped more than 300 families.

“I work really hard on making every single service the best that I can,” Craven told the Express-News. “It’s not just about Benjamin, but about honoring every single child.”

Meanwhile, researchers in the Office of Health Affairs at UT System and UT Health Northeast in Tyler are continuing to study data to understand why the variation in infant mortality rates across Texas exists, and what can be done to reduce it.

For Salinas and Alvarez, the parents who live in one of the two high-rate zip codes in San Antonio and who lost their daughter Heaven only weeks ago, they want to warn other parents to take the proper precautions.

“I wouldn’t want any mother going through that, the same pain that I’m going through,” Alvarez told Fox-29.

Can you help?

Check out Baby Education for South Texas (BEST)—you can donate, volunteer, or spread the word!

By The Numbers By The Numbers

60

Percent

of Latinos earn less than $15/hour (vs. 39% of full-time workers overall).

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