Infant death prompts warning, defense of co-sleeping

Expert warns about the risks of co-sleeping
Posted at 6:12 PM, Dec 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-22 04:06:15-05

Safe baby sleep advocates are warning about the risks associated with co-sleeping after an infant died while its mother slept beside it earlier this year.

She now faces a manslaughter charge for the death, which is the mother's second baby to die in what investigators describe as a co-sleeping related death.

"A baby that sleeps in an adult bed is 40 times more likely to die than a baby that sleeps in their own crib," said Jane Murphy, Executive Director for the Healthy Start Coalition in Hillsborough County. 

In Hillsborough Co. alone, the latest report shows that 12 infants died in 2014 from accidental suffocation, and 99 around the state.

Murphy and her team teach thousands of hospital staff and parents the safest infant sleep practices.

They teach the ABC's of safe sleep, saying a baby should sleep: alone, on their back and in their crib. 

However, not everyone agrees with Murphy.

In an ABC Action News Facebook Post regarding the co-sleeping related death arrest, dozens of parents defended the practice.

One user wrote: "I co-slept with all three of my sweet babies. The bond you feel is unimaginable."

Others agreed that co-sleeping is a way to bond with a baby.

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Murphy understands a parent need to bond with their child. However, she can't warn enough about the dangers of sharing a bed with them.

"No one wants them not to bond with their child," she said, "but we all want that child to be safe."

She suggests other alternatives, like having the crib near the bed, or using a bassinet.

There is nothing more tragic than a baby dying," she said. "And if the baby sleeping alone is what we can do to protect that child, then that's what we need to do."