Jana Roberts’ life changed forever in the early morning hours of June 29, 2017.
She had been visiting her dad in Alabama with her two young sons, Kannon and Kipp, then 5 years old and 9 weeks old, respectively. It had been a pretty routine night for a mom of two young kids. She breastfed her newborn at 12:30 a.m. and put him back in his crib, and left money under Kannon’s pillow for the tooth he had just lost.
But, at 4:30 a.m., when Roberts went to check on Kipp, something was terribly wrong. “He wasn’t breathing,” Roberts, 37, tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t know what to do. Nothing registers in that moment. It’s pure panic … My dad did CPR, and I called 911.”
They rushed to the hospital where doctors tried to save Kipp, but tragically, it was too late and he passed away. Roberts would learn it was due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome [SIDS].
“When they told me it was SIDS, I was like ‘what is that?’ ” she says. “They said, ‘Jana, we have more cases of SIDS then people realize.’ “
Roberts’ husband, former New York Mets pitcher Grant Roberts, had been at the family’s Boise, Idaho home at the time. “It was the hardest call, I’ve ever had to make,” she says.
“I asked them what I could have done,” she says. “[The doctor] was like there is nothing you can do. I was just in there thinking, ‘How?’ I had videos of Kipp laughing and grinning from the night before and that was 12 hours before he passed. You’re just baffled.”
She added: “Once you come out of the fog, you start to research and it’s more common than is spoken about. It’s scary because there are no answers. It’s a silent killer.”
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Inspired to keep Kipp’s memory alive, and help other families, Roberts decided to take action. She reached out to Owlet, a brand that makes Smart Socks ($300), a device that tracks a baby’s oxygen and heart rate when they are sleeping, and alerts parents when it falls out of range.
“They said whatever you raise we’ll match you one to one,” she says. “In two months we had raised [enough for] eight and I was just elated.”
Roberts also started her own foundation, Kipps Kindness, which continues to raise money for the monitors. They are mostly distributed to families who have a rainbow baby, or whose babies have been in the NICU, have reflux issues or Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
Although the monitor cannot prevent SIDS, “Nothing on the market can,” says Roberts. “But, I tell people to use it as a tool, and to practice the ABC’s of the safe sleep practice,” she says, which are the baby should sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib.
“This is something to use as peace of mind. Something that can alert us if one of our little children’s breathing slows down … it can give as a chance to take action, instead of being too late.”
Starting the foundation in her son’s name has also been a source of support for Roberts.
“I needed an outlet to throw my grief into,” she says. “I try to keep in contact with the moms, because every time I send [a monitor] out it’s like a little piece of Kipp. It’s truly because of his life that they are receiving this. I have tons of moms who write me and tell me without you, I wouldn’t be able to sleep or every time I look at my little boy I think of you. You have a special bond with these moms because they appreciate the gift that Kipp has been able to give them.”