Mother promotes safe sleep after heartbreaking loss

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s no secret that Ohio’s infant mortality rate is one of the worst in the nation, and one of the leading causes is unsafe sleeping conditions.

One mother who, through her own loss of a child, is working to stop these preventable deaths.

Amanda Saucedo gave birth to her second child, Ben, on October 20, 2014. She described him as a sweet baby with a lot of personality who enjoyed watching his big brother, Trea.

On Nov. 19, just one day shy of Ben’s one-month birthday, after putting him to sleep, Saucedo experienced every parent’s worst nightmare.

“He woke up, he was hungry so I brought him into my bed, changed his diaper. He latched on to eat like we did every night and then we both fell asleep. The only difference between that day and the other days is that he didn’t wake up,” she said.

The coroner ruled Ben’s death as positional asphyxiation due to unsafe sleeping conditions.

In a new report by the Ohio Department of Health, infant deaths in the state of Ohio are on the rise again at a rate of 7.2 deaths for every 1,000 births. In 2014, the rate was 6.8, the lowest since 1939.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents follow the ABC’s of Safe Sleep to help prevent these types of tragedies. A stands for “alone,” B stands for “on their back” and C stands for “in a crib.”

Stephanie Weigel, an injury prevention coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital, explained the importance of these guidelines.

“Sleeping in bed or bed-sharing has been shown to have an extremely high incidence of suffocation, asphyxiation and SIDS related deaths,” she said.

“It’s never a mom’s fault if she starts to fall asleep because we’re exhausted. But what we’re encouraging parents to do is make those steps and changes in their life that ensure if they are dozing off, the baby is safe,” Weigel added.

After baby Ben’s funeral, Saucedo received a teddy bear with his ashes, giving her the inspiration behind Benny Bears. The non-profit organization promotes safe sleep to ensure no parent ever has to go through her experience and pain.

Through Benny Bears, Saucedo is working to have her teddy bears handed out to new parents at different hospitals. Attached to each bear is Ben’s story and the ABC’s of Safe Sleep.

So far, Ben’s story has been shared across the world, helping Saucedo find some sort of comfort in her loss.

“When people are like, ‘Because of him I decided to change what I do with my babies’ and ‘Thank you because Ben might have saved my baby’s life,’” Saucedo said.

Two years later, Saucedo says Ben’s death is still hard to understand, but she continues to spread his message.

“I just hope that we can lower the infant mortality rate. Start here at home then go from there,” she said.

Saucedo has future goals set for Benny Bears, she hopes to release an educational video for new parents that explains Ben’s story.