GEORGETOWN, Texas — Unsafe sleep practices are the leading cause of preventable death for infants one month through 12 months of age, and according to officials with Austin Travis County EMS, there are between 13 and 17 infant deaths in Travis County because of it each year.

For years, October has been observed as SIDS, also known as "sudden infant death syndrome," Awareness Month, although there isn't a specific time of year when these deaths spike. According to medics, however, the term is transitioning to SUID, or "sudden unexpected infant death."

In an effort to help these statistics drop, neighboring Central Texas county EMS departments are partnering up to teach infant safety through a free course -- the "Safe Baby Academy."

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"It's a class that deals with the main issues that a family might face for their newborn in terms of injury for their infant. This class addresses things like child passenger safety, water safety, home safety. We teach infant CPR as well as safe sleep practices," said Captain Randy Chhabra of Austin Travis County EMS.

Earlier in the month, multiple representatives from different safety agencies met at the Williamson County EMS North Campus in Georgetown for a training session on how to teach the Safe Baby Academy with their communities.

"The issues that we see within our communities aren't limited by boundaries, right? So, families in Round Rock and Georgetown are experiencing some of the same issues or negative outcomes that families in Austin or Travis County are experiencing. So we're trying to collaborate and create one foundation of programming to serve all the families, regardless of where you live," said Captain Chhabra who led the session.

After participating in the course, parents have an opportunity to walk away with a free safe-sleep baby box from Pip & Grow.

"This provides families with a safe and portable sleep environment for their infants... It's convenient, and it can provide a family with a safe sleep environment for their newborn or for their infant," said Chhabra. "Parents need to be cognizant of their infant's sleep environment because these deaths aren't occurring to a certain demographic or culture or socio-economic class. It's across the board, and we're going out there and pronouncing babies dead -- even when there's a safe sleep environment in the home like a crib, right?"

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Chhabra offered the following tips for parents:

  • Pillows: babies don't always have the head control to get their face out of one, causing them to potentially suffocate from a simple pillow
  • Soft blankets, plushy toys should also be removed from a baby's sleep space so they don't suffocate or overheat
  • Make sure their sleep space is free of clutter, and is a firm surface.
  • Make sure babies are are being laid down on their back each time they go to sleep. You want to avoid putting them on their stomachs prematurely. If they can roll onto their stomach on their own that's fine.

"We wanna make sure that under 12 months we're following these guidelines. It's the ABCs of safe sleep. We want the child, infant alone in their separate sleep environment, on their back in their crib, or in a safe-sleep approved device," said Chhabra.

To register for the free class, you can click here. Call the Safety Hotline at 512-972-7233, or email: EMSPUBEd@austintexas.gov for more information.