FREEPORT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Maine has gone from having the lowest infant mortality rate in the country to one of the highest over the last 20 years.
State health experts said they don't know why more babies are dying during the first 12 months of their lives. But they do list several key contributing factors.
State health experts said infant deaths in many cases are preventable. That's that why family providers hospitals and home visiting teams are doubling their efforts to reach more at risk parents, and it's slowly making a difference.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Maine had the lowest rate in the country in 1996, losing around four babies for every thousand born. That number increase to 6.87 in 2013 and dropped to 6.7 in 2014 placing Maine 37th compared to other states.
Officials at Dept. of Health & Human Service's Office of Child and Family Services say they are working to establish a network of community programs to support parents who may have babies who are at risk.
Director Jim Martin said home visiting testing teams are educating parents how to create a safe sleeping environment for their babies, including placing a chart with recommendations next to baby's crib.
Research has shown babies are at higher risk of suffocating if they share a bed with parents, especially if substance abuse is involved. Baby should also sleep on their backs with no soft objects in their cribs.
"We are looking at strengthening the home visiting environment, doing a better job of boots on the ground for parents when they bring a new infant home," said OCFS director Jim Martin.
State health officials we are slowly seeing the rate come down — the rate dropped to 6.5 per 1,000 live births in the first three quarters of 2015.
Click here to see how to keep your baby safe.