Community Partner Spotlight: Vikki Collier, Executive Director of Infant Loss Resources

“How are you sleeping?” Every new parent has encountered this question.  Sleep is a perpetual concern in the first year of a baby’s life.  Sadly, we also know that unsafe sleep practices are one of the leading causes of infant death.  In fact, more than 3,500 babies in the U.S. die suddenly and unexpectedly every year while sleeping, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Many parents and caregivers are unaware that the way their baby sleeps can put them at a higher risk of infant death.  And, in our area, Black babies are seven times more likely to die than white babies of Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS).

Infant Loss Resources is one of Generate Health’s community partners helping to change this reality by focusing on providing culturally relevant safe sleep training for Black and brown caregivers, and by supporting parents who are navigating the devastating loss of an infant.  It starts by understanding the real-life barriers that get in the way of practicing the ABC’s of Safe Sleep: Babies sleep safest Alone, on their Back and in their Crib, bassinet, or portable crib.  Vikki Collier, the Executive Director of Infant Loss Resources, describes those barriers as the 4 C’s – close, comfort, convenient, and cultural.  When her organization conducted focus groups with Black parents, they heard again and again that when parents brought babies into bed with them, they did so because they felt more able to keep the baby safe and comforted, meet their needs, and often were advised by family elders to do so.  By developing their programs from the viewpoint of community members, Infant Loss Resources helps Black parents, as well as other parents of color, devise strategies for how to implement safe sleep practices when encountering day-to-day challenge.  As Vikki explains, “If I have a neighbor talk to me about my pregnancy, how I’m eating, how I’m feeling, about safe sleep… I would value that a lot.  Without the relationship, the information comes in, but it really doesn’t stay.”

Infant Loss Resources also help parents who have lost an infant navigate through grief and build from trauma by providing bereavement counseling and peer-to-peer support.  And it’s uniquely positioned to do so, as most of its staff and board have experienced loss themselves.

“Being a small nonprofit, being the leader of one, you wear a lot of hats,” Vikki explains.  Her path to this work began in childhood.  She recalls how her mother exposed Vikki and her four siblings to as many social services as she could, which made Vikki more curious about the world.  She remembers riding the bus line as far as it could go, with her mother pointing out different neighborhoods and learning to play piano because of a program that was brought into the housing project where her family lived.  These formative experiences shaped Vikki’s love of children and passion for connecting families to the resources they need.  After many years as a crisis intervention counselor for homeless families, Vikki wanted to reach people “before they get to that dismal point.”

Please visit Infant Loss Resources’ website to learn more, get involved, or support their work.

Generate Health
3407 S. Jefferson Ave., #135
St. Louis, MO 63118
phone: (314) 880-5719
email: info@generatehealthstl.org
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