Teaching parents how to protect their sleeping babies

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Even as first-time parents, Chris and Kaity Wells say they're prepared.

"Fortunately, we've had a lot of good friends that have recently had babies this year, had a lot of experience handling them, so it just kind of came natural when he came," Chris Wells said.

Their son, Mason, was born at the University of Vermont Medical Center, which is now recognized as a Gold Safe Sleep Champion Hospital, the National Infant Safe Sleep Initiative's highest designation.

"It's awesome," said Kelly Borch an RN at the UVM Medical Center. "A couple of years ago, Sharon and I had a patient that had their sixth baby and they had no plan at home for safe sleep and we just kind of looked at each other and said this is our project."

Borch is one of the staff nurses who helped jump-start the hospital's "safe sleep initiative," an effort to educate families about safe sleep environments. Now, eligible families receive a cribette and every family, like the Wells, gets a sleep sack.

"We have multiple and so I've become an expert swaddler in our few days here, but we do have sleep sacks and all that which I think will be very helpful," Chris Wells said.

Thousands of babies die each year from sudden unexpected infant death which is a broad term that can include accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, which made up 24 percent of SUID cases in 2016.

"As new parents, you're exhausted. And you do what? You go home, you fall asleep on the couch and this we're just hoping that they have that portable crib near them that they will use that instead of using the couch or a recliner," Borch said.

Hospital staffers have conversations with expecting families, including knowing the ABCs of safe sleep: a baby needs to sleep Alone on their Back and in a Crib.

And for a crying baby like little Mason and his parents, sleep is key.