Her baby died without explanation the day before Mother's Day
An estimated 3 in 10,000 babies born in Canada will die of sudden infant death syndrome
Dana Rennie awoke around 5 a.m. on May 13, the day before Mother's Day, with a bad feeling about her daughter Myla, who was just eight days shy of five months old.
"I knew something was wrong," says the Berwick, N.S., woman. "I just grabbed her and ran down the stairs."
Her three other children watched as her husband performed CPR, but it was too late.
Rennie is now raising awareness about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and is raising money to support research after her perfectly healthy, happy baby suddenly stopped breathing in her sleep.
Myla had no underlying conditions and weighed eight pounds eight ounces when she was born. After being told there was no explanation for her daughter's death, Rennie donated Myla's brain to science.
"My daughter matters," Rennie sobbed in a recent interview. "She was a person and she shouldn't have stopped breathing. There has to be a reason."
Jessica Webster, a perinatal nurse and nursing instructor at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, said SIDS is defined as any loss of life of a child typically between two and four months old, but up to the age of one, when there are no other identifiable causes for the death.
It's difficult to say exactly how many babies die from SIDS. But Webster said the latest research indicates three in 10,000 babies born in Canada will later die of SIDS.
She also said that number has decreased about 70 per cent since the 1980s, likely because of education around smoking, breastfeeding and putting babies to sleep on their backs with no extra blankets and toys.
While there is no way to prevent SIDS and no signs to watch out for, Webster said there are risk factors. They include socioeconomic status; there is a higher incidence of SIDS among lower income families and Indigenous populations.
"There could be so many factors. There could be health of the parents in terms of access to healthy, nutritional food. It could be environment, whether there's toxins in the home environment," she said, pointing out there are cases of SIDS where parents have done everything right.
For Rennie, the "pain in my heart" is indescribable.
She's now organizing a fundraising event in her daughter's memory in Berwick on Oct. 15. Proceeds will go to Baby's Breath, an organization that advocates for and supports research into sudden infant deaths.
"I feel like I need to do this because it needs to be talked about," she said.