Stricter investigation and reporting of infant deaths will track unsafe sleep situations
Stricter reporting and investigative requirements will now be required by law in situations where an infant has died suddenly and unexpectedly, thanks to legislation sponsored by state Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) and state Rep. Thomas Bennett (R-Pontiac).
The legislation was brought forward by Ashley Lamps, a constituent of Rezin and state Rep. Lance Yednock (D-Ottawa), who lost her son in 2013 to SIDS.
Lamps now runs a foundation that advocates for SIDS awareness and the use of safe sleep practices.
Lamps has spent many hours researching safe sleep and the statistics of infant death causes. She realized that the information that was available did not always show the true picture of how the child died.
The death of her son, Aden, was labeled as SIDS. There was no information included about the fact that he was found at his day care provider’s home face down with a fleece blanket in the bed with him.
In Illinois prior to this bill, some coroners labeled deaths like this as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and some labeled them as SUID (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death), and some include “due to unsafe sleep” and some don’t.
Across Illinois, deaths are labeled differently based on where it takes place and how each coroner chooses to do so. This bill makes the reporting the same across Illinois and makes the information public through the Illinois Department of Public Health so that information will be helpful for education purposes and public awareness.
“Too often, infant deaths are being ruled as SIDS even when there are unsafe factors present at the scene where the infant passed,” Rezin said.
“By just putting SIDS on the death certificate, potentially valuable information is being left out that could help prevent infant deaths in the future.”
Lamps said: “I met a mom through Facebook who also lost her son at day care. She has done some great things in her state to advocate for change. I asked her about the process, and she said to start locally, so I started by writing a letter and sharing my story.”
After writing her letter to Rezin, Lamps was contacted by Rezin’s office to set up a time to have a phone conversation with the senator. During the phone conversation, Rezin said that she was going to pass the information along, and someone from Springfield would be contacting Lamps.
Some time later, Lamps got the call when she was least expecting it. Lamps was asked many questions to get a better idea about what her goal was. From there, the bill was drafted and sent to Lamps for approval. It was then sent to a hearing.
The night before the hearing, the staff was contacted because the Coroners Association was opposing the bill. They then postponed the hearing until they could talk to the coroner’s group to get more information.
A conference call was then scheduled between Lamps, Springfield staff, Rezin and the president of the Coroners Association plus a few coroners. It was agreed that the bill would be amended and rescheduled for a hearing.
Lamps was invited to share her story at the hearing along with Rezin in Springfield.
Senate Bill 1568 was then signed into law on Friday, Aug. 9.
Lamps said she was thrilled that the hard work paid off and that hopefully the legislation will help in providing information to parents and caregivers.
“After losing Aden, I knew that I needed to do something to advocate for change,” Lamps said.
“It is very difficult to educate others when they do not think that it happens often or maybe are not aware of how it happens. Many people do not realize that unsafe sleep is a factor in many infant deaths.
“Also, statistics are not accurate without the other information included, such as the sleep environment. My hope is that this bill will allow for more accurate statistics due to better reporting of these types of deaths.”
Bureau County Coroner Janice Wamhoff said she feels that this legislation is a good idea so that information is shared uniformly from each county. Wamhoff explained that this is not a change for what is currently done in Bureau County.
She said that every child under the age of 5 who dies in Bureau County has an autopsy done and the pathologist finds the underlying cause of death, which is what is reported on the death certificate along with any additional information such as the sleep environment.
Wamhoff said there hasn’t been a death in Bureau County only listed as SIDS in many years.
“I have never liked the term SIDS,” Wamhoff said. “There is always a reason for the death. I feel that parents need to know exactly what happened.”
Though Lamps is not able to change the outcome of Aden’s death, she is able to keep his memory alive and help to educate others on safe sleep.
Lamps said: “In keeping Aden’s memory alive, we are devoted to helping build awareness and preventing this tragic loss from happening to another family. While we have always followed the safe sleep guidelines with our children, we recognize that not everyone understands the importance of or has training on safe sleep practices.”
The Aden Lamps Foundation strives to provide tools and information to as many parents of newborns as they can on safe sleeping practices and preventing a death due to SUID/SIDS. The foundation provides safe sleep packages to local hospitals and organizations for families of newborns.
“We currently donate to IVCH, St. Margaret’s Hospital, LaSalle County WIC and various other organizations,” Lamps said.
“These safe sleep packages include a Halo SleepSack, Safe Sleep and Snug board book, and safe sleep information.”
The foundation recently had its seventh annual run/walk at Hall High School in Spring Valley.
ABC’s of Safe Sleep
A. Sleep ALONE
Babies under 1 year of age are safest sleeping alone in their crib, bassinet or portable play yard with a firm mattress. A baby sleeping in a bed not specifically made for infants, with an older child or adult, or with soft items, such as cushions, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, bumpers, and more, puts the child at risk of SIDS.
B. On my BACK
Sleeping on the back is the safest position for babies. It keeps the infant’s nose away from soft items that can easily deprive him or her of oxygen. A baby’s nose is much flatter and softer that an older child or adult, so their nose is very easily compressed or surrounded by soft materials. Back to sleep is best.
C. In an empty CRIB
Putting a baby to sleep in an empty crib also helps to remove hazards that can cause SIDS. Soft items put the infant at risk. Putting babies to sleep in a sleep sack in an empty crib helps to keep them warm and safe.
Aden Lamps Foundation
The mission of the Aden Lamps Foundation is to educate local families on the dangers of an unsafe sleeping environment for infants. The sleep sacks are a safer alternative to having loose blankets in the crib.
Aden Lamps, the son of Andy and Ashley Lamps, died in 2013 of a SUID at the age of 4 months.