Antoine Dow is not new to fatherhood, but the birth of his youngest son Nasir, now 8-months, brought some new challenges. “My son was a preemie,” states Dow. “He was in the hospital for a couple of months.”
It was during this hospital stay that B’more for Healthy Babies staff approached Antoine, a Baltimore native who owns a barbershop and adjacent grocery store on Druid Hill Avenue and asked him to participate in the SLEEP SAFE campaign. He readily agreed to help educate his community about safe sleeping environments for babies.
Dow’s barbershop participated in “Barber Day,” a Father’s Day event that provided free haircuts in exchange for listening to B’more for Healthy Babies’ message: that all babies should sleep alone, on their back, and in a crib. No exceptions. Much of the information given out was new to Dow himself. He was especially surprised by the fact that Baltimore’s babies die at a rate that is among the worst in America – many for preventable reasons. “I was not aware about SIDS at all or the infant mortality rate in Baltimore. I was shocked.”
Antoine immediately began paying attention to Nasir’s sleep environment, and placing him to sleep on his back. “When the B’more for Healthy Babies staff told me how to put a baby to sleep properly, I realized that we were lucky, very lucky, that nothing happened,” he exclaims.
However, Dow did not stop at his own child; he wanted to make sure that the message reached other fathers as well. “A lot of young guys come into my shop and a lot of them are fathers – I wanted everyone to know.” For this reason, he began playing the SLEEP SAFE video, the centerpiece of B’more for Healthy Babies’ SLEEP SAFE campaign, throughout the day for his clients.
Dow also stresses the importance of B’more for Healthy Babies’ second phase, which launched in October 2011. The campaign, Just Hold Off, encourages the creation of smoke-free environments for babies and pregnant women. “I do not smoke myself,” says Dow. “And if I see one of the guys in my shop smoking, I ask them to take it outside or to not smoke at all.”
Six months after his first contact with B’more for Healthy Babies, Dow continues to work to spread the safe sleep and smoke-free messages by distributing materials in his barbershop and grocery store. He remains committed to the work he does for the program because, as he sees it: “infant mortality is a real problem in Baltimore. I want to save as many kids as I can.”