Mom advocates for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Awareness Month after losing her child

Local mother raises awareness about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Many people know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but the month is also dedicated to another cause; spreading awareness for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.

According to the Boston Children’s Hospital, 2,300 babies die from SIDS in the U.S. every year. In Horry County, a local mother has dedicated her life to raising awareness of the syndrome since she lost her son 36 years ago.

“My husband and I woke up and we were wondering why the baby hasn’t cried to wake us up,” said Latischa Estep. “He got up to check on the baby, and he found our son died.”

Estep will never forget the night of Nov. 29, 1984, when she found out her four-month-old, Jonathan, died while sleeping in his playpen.

“For hours and hours and hours, we didn’t know how our son died,” she said. “I’m pointing the finger at him, he’s pointing the finger at me. Did something happen? Act of God? We didn’t know.”

The doctors answered all those questions with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

At the time, Estep didn’t know what that meant, but she did know she couldn’t be the only one who lost a child in its sleep. She went on to found a group called “People for the Right to Know Why” to raise awareness.

“Jonathan died in 1984,” said Estep. “In 1985, we got the proclamation in Louisville, Kentucky, stating October is National Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Month.”

While Latischa continues doing her best to raise awareness, McLeod Health launched a safe sleep initiative five years ago to do the same thing.

In 2018, McLeod was named a Gold Safe Sleep Champion by the National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program for its awareness efforts.

“It’s a scary topic to have to talk about with a newborn family, but just five minutes of preventive guidance can really help educate parents going home about what they can do to decrease the chance of SIDS for their kids,” said Dr. Douglas Moeckel, a Neonatal Medicine Specialist at McLeod.

McLeod reinforces the ABC’s of safe sleep:

  • A stands for Alone, meaning babies should be alone when they sleep, without parents, stuffed animals or anything else that can obstruct breathing.
  • B stands for Back, meaning babies should sleep on their backs rather than stomach or sides.
  • C stands for Crib, meaning babies should sleep in a crib or flat environment rather than a bed with parents.

Estep will continue telling Jonathan’s story every SIDS Awareness Month, in hopes she can prevent the same thing from happening to any other families.

“All I want with my last breath is public awareness, so another couple doesn’t have to wake up and wonder what happened to their baby,” she said.

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