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By The Associated Press

JACKSON — Mississippi has the nation’s highest infant mortality rate, and experts are trying to change that by teaching people about healthy pregnancies and proper sleep conditions for babies.

Dr. Yvonne Maddox of the National Institutes of Health says it’s important for infants to sleep on their backs in cribs without blankets, pillows or stuffed animals, which can cause accidental suffocation.

In 2011, Mississippi had 9.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. The national rate was 6 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The statistics are for children who die before reaching their first birthday.

The Mississippi State Department of Health says the top causes of infant mortality are premature birth or low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, birth defects, accidents or maternal difficulties.

Maddox spoke at a health conference Wednesday in Jackson.

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