Living to Make Mason Proud
A Mother’s Mission after Losing her Infant to Sudden Unexplained Death
Mason Archer Weaver was born on Jan. 6, 2017. His nurses nicknamed him “Speedy” because it took just two pushes of labor before he joined the world. It was a beautiful Tennessee winter day with fresh snow falling, recalls his mother Brittanie.
“He was six pounds and eight ounces of perfection, with a little bald head and a big round belly,” said Brittanie recently. “We truly loved every day we had with him; we took him everywhere we could with us. He had a tender soul, loved to be cuddled and loved listening to music.”
Four months and four days later, Brittanie answered a phone call that no parent should ever have to receive. Mason was unresponsive. He had gone to sleep for a nap at his daycare and was not waking up.
Brittanie and her husband rushed to their hospital’s emergency room. There, they waited for 30 minutes before a doctor came and delivered devastating news: The care team had done everything they could, but Mason had died.
“Holding your child for the last time on earth is such a surreal, out-of-body experience. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to say,” said Brittanie, trying to explain her sense of loss in that moment. “My hopes and dreams were gone in an instant.”
Mason’s family sought answers but the autopsy results were unsatisfactory. They could not confirm whether Mason’s death was a result of accidental suffocation, overheating or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Brittanie and her husband were left with unresolved questions, trying to process what had happened and what they should do next.
Over the next few months, they called specialists, researched causes of infant death, and reached out to others who had experienced the sudden loss of an infant. They found that too many families were left without answers. Moreover, there was a distressing lack of awareness among families and caregivers about the prevalence of infant death, and about safe sleep guidelines and other prevention strategies.
“If I could tell all mothers one thing, it would be that this can happen to anyone,” said Brittanie. “I would tell them to follow all of the safe sleep guidelines because there’s so much we don’t know and you can never be too safe. And even if we do everything right, these deaths can still happen. I don’t want any families to take a single moment for granted. That’s why I’m working so hard to raise awareness about what happened to Mason and what happens to other babies across the United States every day.”
Fueled by a desire to ensure that Mason’s legacy continues, Brittanie and her husband channeled their love and energy toward saving lives. They started MAW’s Cause, a foundation honoring Mason that supports community outreach and research funding for SIDS and sudden unexplained death in childhood. They’re working to help ensure that other families don’t experience what they went through.
“I read somewhere that grief is love with nowhere go,” said Brittanie. “Mason’s death made me believe that with all my heart. Unless you go through it, you can’t fully understand the grief of losing a child. It becomes a part of you and you are never the same. And that is okay. I've learned to embrace the fact that I grieve so hard because I love that little boy so very much. That grief, that love – it inspires my husband and me to live lives that will make Mason proud. You don't know how strong you are until strong is your only option.”
Brittanie Weaver is a mother-partner on the NICHQ-led Safe Sleep Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (Safe Sleep CoIIN) to Reduce Infant Mortality, an initiative that seeks to decrease the instances of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) rates and reduce racial disparities in sleep-related infant deaths. As a mother-partner, Brittanie provides insight into the experiences of families who have survived the loss of an infant; she is an unswerving advocate for the need to raise awareness and inspire change. By sharing her story with the Safe Sleep CoIIN, she has inspired the state teams to seek out partnerships with families so that their voices help support the initiative’s improvement work.
“I became a mother-partner because I know my story can help save babies,” says Brittanie. “It shows that what happened to my family can happen to anyone; and knowing that can change how people respond to education about SIDS and safe sleep.”
Every year, there are approximately 3,500 sleep-related infant deaths in the U.S., including SIDS, accidental suffocation and strangulation, and unknown causes of death. Find out more about efforts to support states, communities and families who are working to change those numbers.
Eliminating Safe Sleep Fatalities Starts by Identifying What Causes Them
Understanding what causes infant deaths gives states and communities the information they need to identify focused, effective solutions. This makes infant mortality data—data that reveals the causes and contributors to death and system barriers—irreplaceable assets for any infant health improvement effort. And that makes the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention (National CFRP) an essential partner.
Economics: A Creative Paradigm for the Importance of Trust in Pediatric Care
When parents trust their child’s pediatric provider, they come together as an effective team working to ensure the child’s health and well-being. Yet, while the importance of parent-pediatric trust is clear, strategies for building it often remain nebulous. Looking for a more concrete framework? Here, Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics shares how economic principles can inform trust-building strategies in the pediatric setting.
It’s Past Time to Prevent SIDS and Sleep-Related Infant Deaths
In the U.S., Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), suffocation and other sleep-related causes claim approximately 3,600 babies every year. That number translates to nearly 165 unfilled kindergarten classrooms. Doing better by American families starts by identifying what’s working and outlining opportunities for improvement. Here, NICHQ Faculty Expert Michael Goodstein, MD, a neonatologist and international safe sleep expert, discusses what priorities should shape improvement efforts in the years to come.
Applying an Equity Lens to Safe Sleep and Breastfeeding Efforts
Black families are twice as likely as white families to have their baby die in the first year of life. In some states, they are three times as likely. These statistics are more than numbers; they represent real families who suffer unimaginable loss—loss that stems from the persistent effects of systemic racism on the health of black families. Here, faculty experts on a national safe sleep and breastfeeding initiative share their recommendations for how health professionals and improvement initiatives can better support the health and well-being of black families.
Promising Practices for Eliminating Disparities in Sleep-Related Infant Deaths
While overall infant mortality rates have gone down during the past decade, black infant mortality rates increased from 2014 to 2015. To address these numbers, individuals, organizations and health departments across the country have designed innovative community programs, grassroots initiatives, state and national campaigns, and educational materials tailored to high-risk and underserved populations that experience barriers to safe sleep practices. Together, their work provides a vital roadmap for others seeking to drive community, state and national change.
Three Ways Hospitals Can Help Eliminate Sleep-Related Infant Deaths in their State
For the past two years, Tufts Floating Hospital for Children has been working to empower families to follow safe sleep guidelines so that more babies reach year one. Hospitals seeking to help more families adopt safe sleep practices can learn from and replicate the strategies they share.