NEW CANAAN, Conn. — A Wilton mother who lost a son nearly 20 years ago to sudden infant death syndrome is the new chief executive officer of a national organization dedicated to preventing SIDS, stillbirth and miscarriage.
Alison Jacobson, a married mother of three who also has two stepchildren, is taking over the leadership post at First Candle, which recently relocated from Baltimore to New Canaan.
Jacobson's son, Connor, died in infancy in 1997, she told Daily Voice. Since then, her local pediatrician’s office contacts her when a baby dies of SIDS in the practice so she can offer support to the parents.
“Three members of our staff have had SIDS deaths in their families. Our director of education's son passed away 31 years ago on Christmas Eve," said Jacobson.
Through fundraising and program initiatives, First Candle strives to educate parents, grandparents, daycare providers and other caregivers on safe sleep measures for infants: support research; work with nurses and hospitals to educate new parents on safe sleep practices; and provide support to grieving families.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics has new guidelines. Most important is to back-sleep infants alone in a crib or environment with no pillows, no blankets, no stuffed animals, no fluffy covers, nothing in a crib except a firm mattress with a snug-fitting sheet. One recommendation is room sharing, but not in your bed,” said Jacobson.
In 2007, First Candle received a $11 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a ground-breaking program to help prevent infant deaths that occur as a result of unsafe sleep practices.
The seven-year Bedtime Basics for Babies campaign combined a crib distribution program with a widespread public and professional education component.
In 2010, Dr. Hannah Kinney made a breakthrough in SIDS research, finding a link to low levels of serotonin and serotonin receptor cells in the brainstem of babies who die of SIDS.
Research continues in hopes of finding a way to identify and treat this deficiency.
Most recently, First Candle, among six organizations, collaborated on the Safe to Sleep campaign launched in August 2012 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
This campaign goes beyond Back to Sleep in providing risk reduction strategies to parents and caregivers on ways to prevent SIDS, suffocation and other sleep-related causes of death.
Before her new appointment, Jacobson had served on the group's board of directors for six years as a consultant.
“I feel like I've come full circle,” she said.
In addition to virtual staffers in Indiana and Michigan, First Candle employs four residents of Fairfield County and Greater New York City, said Karen Sackowitz, who handles communications for the group.
Click here for more information about First Candle.
Call 800-221-7437 to reach First Candle's grief crisis hotline. First Candle is located at 49-51 Locust Ave., New Canaan.