Mom promotes safe sleep practices after infant daughter suffocates on blanket

“Molly was put down for a nap and never woke back up.” (Photo: Molly Ann Gries Foundation)

One mom is promoting safe sleep practices for infants after her baby girl suffocated on a blanket while sleeping.

On Feb. 21, 2015, proud mom Meagen Gries gave birth to Molly — a “beautiful, smiley, vivacious” baby girl.

“She was healthy, agreeable and so happy,” Gries said. “She was welcomed by her adoring older brother, Owen, and a family that could not have been more excited to have a little girl in its midst.”

Meagen returned to work on May 4, 2015. It was her first day back to work after maternity leave, and she dropped 10-week-old Molly off at the babysitter’s house for her first day of daycare. At noon, while taking her lunch break at Echo Hills Elementary School where she teaches first grade, a call came that changed her life forever.

“Molly was put down for a nap and never woke back up. Our sweet girl was gone,” she said.

They first suspected she passed from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) — the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a healthy baby less than a year old. But later they determined it to be “positional asphyxiation” which happens when a person, particularly an infant, can’t get enough air to breathe due to the positioning of his/her body.

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Pack-n-play’s are often described as a place for an infant to nap or play — and typically feature a removable, full-size bassinet so the baby can catch a nap. (Photo: Getty)

“In other words … an accident. Our 10-week-old baby had been swaddled and propped on her side in a pack-n-play that had blankets on the bottom.”

Pack-n-play’s are often described as a place for an infant to nap or play — and typically feature a removable, full-size bassinet so the baby can catch a nap whether at home or while travelling. But at some point after being placed down for a nap, Gries says that Molly “rolled onto her belly” and was unable to breathe.

The grieving mom called the babysitter and reassured her that she was just as guilty of making the same sleeping mistakes with Molly every day.

“It absolutely could’ve been me,” Gries said.

“Losing your child is the worst possible thing a parent can go through. Finding out it was preventable is just about unbearable,” Gries noted. “Since May 4, it has become our mission to help other families avoid the same heartache we’ve suffered.”

Gries gave birth to another beautiful daughter, Emma, on May 5, 2016, almost a year to the day Molly died. Last year, Gries and her husband started the Molly Ann Gries Foundation to promote safe sleep practices through education and awareness, and to provide families in need with safe sleep tools to help other families “avoid the same nightmare” they’ve been living.

“Our mission is to spread awareness about safe sleep practices through education and resource distribution,” Gries said.

Their newest venture is with Akron Children’s Hospital — the largest pediatric health care provider in northeast Ohio. Beginning in 2018, every baby that visits one of the hospital’s 29 pediatric offices for their initial checkup will receive a copy of “Sleep Baby, Safe and Snug” — a board book about safe sleep — as well as a card of questions parents can ask potential childcare providers about pertaining to safe sleep.

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“We will also be supplying Snuza movement monitors (medically certified baby breathing monitors) and Secure Beginnings breathable crib mattresses to families with at risk infants,” noted Meaghan .

“We can’t help but wonder if our life would be different today, if Molly had been using these valuable tools.”

Gries wants Yahoo readers to remember the ABCs of infant sleep safety:

  • Alone: Share the room, not the bed.
  • Back: Back is best for baby.
  • Crib: Place your baby to sleep in a safety-approved crib. Remember that sleep clothing (i.e. fitted, appropriate-sized sleepers and sleep sacks) are safer for baby than blankets.

“When talking to parents I usually stick to those three things because much more gets lost on them,” Gries told Yahoo Canada. “If caregivers can remember to put babies alone (no blankets, bumper pads, stuffed animals, sleep positioners, etc.), on their back (not belly, not side) and in a crib (not in bed with them, on a couch with them, or in anything other than an approved sleep space like a crib or Pack ‘n Play) — then they will have taken drastic steps to reduce the risks associated with sleeping. ”

Visit the Molly Ann Gries Foundation for more information.

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