Indiana Atop Nation in Infant Mortality (NBC33 VIDEO)

By Eric DeFreeuw - NBC33

December 17, 2013 Updated Dec 18, 2013 at 12:12 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (NBC33) – Statistics point out that Indiana leads the nation in infant mortality. Experts believe smoking is one of the causes of Indiana’s alarmingly high rate.

The Indiana Youth Institute reports Indiana is 25% higher than the national average when it comes to infants dying before their first birthday. Because of that, this issue has quickly become the top priority for the Indiana Department of Health.

A leading cause is parental smoking. An estimated 17% of Indiana mothers admit to smoking while pregnant.

"Think about an image of a newborn with a lit cigarette in their mouth. That's just disgusting to even say or think about, and yet that's what is happening while baby is inside of mom,” says Indiana Youth Institute’s President and CEO Bill Stanczykiewicz. “The nicotine, the other chemicals are going to baby first, and that really harms baby's growth, increases the chances that baby is born with low birth weight which is a huge predictor for dying before your first birthday, which is infant mortality."

Another leading cause of infant mortality is suffocation. Too often mothers will try to sleep with their babies but end up rolling over onto the baby during the night. Choking hazards in the crib are another potential risk.

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