Meritus Healthcare Foundation helps to educate parents on safe sleep for babies


Sometimes an idea can go nowhere, but sometimes… An idea can save lives.

Five years ago, dedicated team members from Meritus Medical Center’s Women’s and Children’s Center had growing concern of a staggering statistic: According to the Maryland Department of Health, Washington County had the highest rate of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome cases in the state of Maryland.

The team knew education would help reduce the risk of SUIDS, which was majorly contributing to the infant mortality rate.

A director, manager and staff nurse Evelyn Kloos from the birthing center at Meritus attended the National Cribs for Kids Conference in 2017. A presentation on safe sleep, where a crib was used to show safe and unsafe sleeping positions for babies, resonated with the group.

When the team members returned from the conference, they connected that the infants who were dying from SUIDS had a lot in common -- Their families often experienced disparities related to education, income levels and opioid use disorders.

The project would need to engage new parents in a relatable scenario. They decided to create a realistic baby’s room to show what design and behaviors would create a safe at-home nursery.

By spring of 2020, funded by the generous support of the Meritus Healthcare Foundation Cornerstone Giving Club members, the idea became a reality.

“Our display identifies hazards that parents should focus on, and how to then create a safe room for their baby,” Kloos said, adding that this includes things such as changing table safety, suffocation prevention, crib safety standards and room temperature.

The educational display is easy to access in the lobby of the Meritus Women’s and Children’s Center on the second floor of the hospital. The display is also part of the tour of the unit for expectant parents.

“While patients and families are waiting to be admitted, they have the opportunity to check out the display,” said Lori Sprecher, clinical manger in the special care nursery.

This display is one important piece in Meritus’ certification as a gold-level Safe Sleep Hospital through the National Cribs for Kids organization.

“The display uses the theory that adult learners learn best when they are directly involved in experiencing the learning instead of retaining something they read or had to memorize,” Sprecher said.

The Safe-to-Sleep campaign was formally known as the Back-to-Sleep campaign that launched in 1994, in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, to help educate parents and caregivers about ways to reduce the risk of SUIDS.

Locally, the idea has come full circle.

In May, Meritus team members will be presenting the abstract used for the nursery display during the 2022 National Cribs for Kids Conference.

“We are showing how we are using education for parents to save the lives of children. It’s been possible for us to do that thanks to the generosity of our foundation,” Kloos said.

Find out more about Meritus Health’s safe sleep initiatives here.