When I received a copy of Sleep Baby, Safe and Snug at the hospital following my second daughter’s birth, I had no idea that there was a story behind the book’s blatant overtures toward safe sleep. Or that after learning that story four months later, I’d be tearfully vowing to stop bringing my restless girl into bed with me and my husband at five a.m.
Practicing safe sleep can be so much harder than it appears on the surface, but stories like that of Cincinnatians Maura and Sam Hanke (a pediatric cardiologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital), who lost their first son to SIDS in 2010, are a tragic reminder of why it’s so important to keep trying. The couple was featured in an article this week in the Huffington Post, highlighting their work educating parents and families about safe sleep through Charlie’s Kids Foundation, the nonprofit they established the year following their son’s death. That book I received in the hospital? That’s part of their efforts to keep what happened to their child from happening to anybody else’s.
Written by local pediatrician and author John Hutton and published by Cincinnati’s own Blue Manatee Press, Sleep Baby, Safe and Snug is the cornerstone of the Charlie’s Kids Foundation’s mission to educate parents about safe sleep and reduce the SIDS mortality rate. As of December 31 of last year, more than 450,000 copies had been given to new and expectant parents. Giving the book away for free and encouraging a bedtime reading, according to the Charlie’s Kids Foundation’s website, “provide[s] constant safe sleep messaging at the most important time— immediately before an infant is put down to sleep.”
While I found myself nodding along to the recommendations in the book (because I’d heard them all before), it’s the Hanke’s words—and their story—that make a real impact.
“So, when trying to calm a newborn at 2 a.m., or sneaking a few extra zzz’s during the day, think of our Charlie,” the Hankes write in a piece for Cradle Cincinnati, “We want you to know that your baby is safest on his or her back, alone in the crib. This has become one of our life missions. There is nothing that can take our pain away, but trying to prevent other families from living this same nightmare offers some sense of purpose as we move forward in our grief.”