Saving kids from SIDS

Philomena McGoldrick has seen how hundreds of babies` lives have been saved by a few simple initiatives brought about by SIDS research and health promotion.

Philomena McGoldrick, a clinical nurse educator in maternity at the Mater Hospital in North Sydney, explains an important part of her role is educating patients and their families, as well as staff, about how to minimise the risks of SIDS, a tragic condition in which seemingly healthy babies can die suddenly in their cot.

Despite the increased awareness in the community about reducing the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and stillbirth, 100 babies still die of SIDS each year in Australia, and many more children are stillborn.

Philomena says midwives and nurses can be the key to providing information to first-time families, who may have no experience of pregnancy and childbirth.

‘Midwives are the unsung heroes for many families out there, and educating people is the key to empowering them.

‘Patients are sometimes reluctant to hear about potential risks. We have to inform people that sometimes things can go wrong, and that’s where SIDS comes into it. You can tell people how to minimise risks but the risks are still there.

‘Losing a baby is devastating for any parent and, aside with coping with their grief, it can also shatter their confidence when contemplating having further children,’ says Philomena.

Philomena says the most important step for grieving parents is to acknowledge the loss of their baby and the flood of emotion that goes with it. ‘As long as it is acknowledged, it’s much easier for people to move on.’

Parents at the Mater attend a special home after losing a baby, where they are counselled by social workers. When the parents are ready to try for another child, they are kept in a group with other parents who have lost a baby.
‘They can talk about what they are going through with people who’ve experienced the same thing,’ says Philomena.


What you need to know about SIDS
There are three main ways to reduce the risk of SIDS:

  • Put baby on the back to sleep, from birth
  • Sleep baby with face uncovered
  • Cigarette smoke is bad for babies

Red noses save babies’ lives
Red Nose Day run by ‘SIDS and Kids’ is one of Australia’s great health promotion success stories. The first Red Nose Day run in 1988 was one of the first campaigns of its kind, where a charity creates a novelty day to raise money and awareness. Red noses were seen on cars, planes, newsreaders and thousands of ordinary people.

The day created huge public awareness of a relatively unknown condition and raised $1.3 million for research. The result of the research and subsequent health promotion is that SIDS deaths have fallen 70% since 1989, when 513 babies died of the condition.
24 June will mark 18 years of Red Nose Day for SIDS. While the day has saved the lives of countless babies, many poorer mothers and

Aboriginal women are still at risk of losing their babies to the condition.

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