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Beaufort County taking steps to reduce infant mortality rate

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WASHINGTON, Beaufort County - North Carolina has a high infant mortality rate -- 7.2 death per 1,000 babies born. In Beaufort County, it's more than double that.

The county has a rate of 16.5, which is alarming for anyone who lives there. The county is working to keep those numbers from getting any higher. Mothers like Joezetta Gatewood are getting information and help from places like Coastal Pregnancy Center to help along the way.

"I used to be one to have my baby in the bed with me all the time," Joezetta Gatewood said. "I was a single mother and didn't know how to be a mother and within those classes, those parenting classes, I actually learned a lot about how to do and how not to do certain things."

Susie Rollins, executive director at Coastal Pregnancy Center, said education is one of the biggest things that will help the rate go down.

"Well, my momma did it or my grandmamma did it. We hear that a lot when it comes to breastfeeding or putting the baby in the bed with them," Rollins said.

Co-sleepers will also help.

"It gives baby their own environment so it protects them so you're not worried about smothering, you're not worried about that soft mattress that we have as adults, you're not worried about the bunching up of the sheets," said Samantha Heath, a social worker with the Beaufort County Health Department.

As moms learn more about them, county health leaders are confident fewer babies will die.

"Once you get the information out there and be able to inform these mothers on what to do and what not to do and what can be prevented, I think it will absolutely help," Heath said.

The Beaufort County Health Department also has a free pack and play program available to any mother in the county who's in her third trimester through her baby's first year of life.

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