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The Potential Dangers of Co-Sleeping

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Four infants in Wisconsin who were co-sleeping with adults have died in the last six weeks. Here's what our pediatrician has to say about the risks.

mother and baby cosleeping

Four infants in Wisconsin who were co-sleeping with adults have died in the last six weeks. Reportedly, in each case, the adult turned over and accidentally landed on the baby, suffocating it to death.

  • Two-month-old Tyler Winston died April 19 while sleeping with his mother, Carlen Friday. When she woke up, she found the newborn faced down on the bed dead.
  • Three-month-old Kymarius Hunt died April 5 after his grandmother apparently smothered him while they slept on a couch.
  • Ten-month-old Gavin Robinson died April 4 of accidental suffocation after sharing a futon with his mother, police said.
  • Six-day-old Ceianna Buchanan was found dead March 8 in her home after sleeping with her mother on the couch. She appeared to have been smothered.

Granted, two of these adults broke a cardinal rule of co-sleeping: They slept on couches, not beds. Experts advise never to co-sleep on a sofa as your baby could get wedged in the cracks between the cushions or between you and the back of the couch. Co-sleeping on a waterbed is also a no-no, as they are too soft and may have deep crevices around the frame where your baby could get trapped.

Alcohol was also a factor in two of these incidents. Drugs and alcohol can impair your memory and cause you to forget that your baby is sleeping next to you. They can also cause you to sleep so soundly that you may not realize it if you roll over on your baby.

Is co-sleeping safe?

Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson says: The "family bed" is another term for parents sleeping with one or more children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has officially recommended against the family bed, and the proponents of attachment parenting adamantly disagree. The AAP recommendation is based upon infant safety issues. Here are three reasons why:

Tossing and turning: There is a risk that a parent could roll on top of a baby, potentially injuring or suffocating him or her. While this is uncommon, it is possible.

Down will come baby: Unless a baby is in the middle of the bed between two adults, it is easy for him or her to squirm or roll off the bed. Surrounding a baby with pillows or other bolsters is neither safe nor effective.

This bed's too soft: Parents tend to sleep in beds with soft mattresses and heavy comforters. It is safer for a baby to sleep in a bed with a slightly harder mattress with lighter covers or none at all.

The Milwaukee Health Department launched a citywide safe sleep awareness campaign yesterday. "If you love your baby, put them in the crib," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "Do not have them sleep with you."

Our thoughts go out to the families of the babies who died. Tell us: Do your babies sleep in your bed?

next: The Carbon Footprint Diet
31 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous April 23, 2009, 11:34 PM

I ended up co-sleeping with my daughter when she was an infant because I was afraid I would drop her when taking her out her crib at night to feed. It didn’t help my husband was deployed and I was lonely (I also can suffer from horrible nightmares at night if I don’t snuggle someone or thing). There was ample space between the crib and our bed so I simply dragged all our mink blankets to make a pad and covered it with a smoother blanket. I had trained myself not to fidget and roll around in bed (so my hubby wouldn’t find a fist in the crotch or my foot in his face) so I was confident I would stay in place. And I did the hypersensitive thing, too. I just recently got where I could sleep all night without running to my daughter’s room if I hear her fussing. She’s 2.5 now. Absolutely no problems.

COMMON SENSE DUH! April 24, 2009, 12:56 AM

So how many children died in Wisconsin from sids last week? I betcha more than 4. Why didn’t you address those? Oh because of course if people stop buying cribs it’s going to hurt the furniture companies, the baby companies that make the cute little bedding and all that crap.
Your article is misleading and ignorant and should have been title “The Potential Dangers of Co-Sleeping while intoxicated, high while ignoring safety measures” rather than jumping on ALL co-sleepers.

This train of thought is the same as saying NO ONE should be encouraged to drive a car for example because it “can” be dangerous. However safety measures and good common sense goes a long way. I guess no one thought of that

Ju April 24, 2009, 3:04 AM

My comment came in as annonymous 11:34

I also wanted to note, if I felt REALLY tired, into the crib my daughter went. I was one of the lucky few that actually got some sleep when she was an infant. I think I get less sleep now than I did then!

Anonymous April 25, 2009, 8:52 AM

You do not need to be a doctor to look at the research that has been done and make an educated decision. In some cases, you do not want to put too much trust in your doctor’s advice. I have found that some doctors do not keep up with their field or are not as knowledgeable as many people expect them to be. Beware of this type of doctor. They will give you advice that could be detrimental to your child’s health or even fatal.

Nancy April 25, 2009, 1:25 PM

I agree with the COMMON SENSE comment above. There will always be risk in anything you do. So many people have co-slept over the years (and around the world)—how can a handful of instances, tragic as they are, constitute a pandemic?

BecauseIJustDid April 27, 2009, 7:14 PM

I believe this article to be very one-sided. Where are the facts in support of the attachment parenting, other than the fact that they dissagree? Is this objective journalism? I think not. Drugs and alcohol already prove that it wasn’t attachment parenting in play, but lazy parents or poor parents that didn’t own a crib. But, we wouldn’t know because you didn’t post all the facts. Yet again, another biased post from momlogic.

Rhonda June 2, 2009, 10:13 AM

On May 14th my 2 month old grandson Kaden was sleeping in bed with his mom and fell between the mattress and the wall.His crib railing had broken and she thought he would be safer in the bed until it was fixed.People think that if they are good parents and love their baby nothing bad will happen but accidents can happen to the best, most aware parents.Not only did she lose the baby that she loved so much but she had to deal with the police and Medical examiner making her re-enact the whole thing with a mannequin.They were considering filing child endangerment charges against her for having the baby in the bed. I would advise against co sleeping because no matter how careful you are accidents happen. If you have other children and this happens to you they can be taken away by social services.

Miss Anon January 21, 2010, 12:05 PM

The family bed has been around since the beginning of time. When we make breastfeeeding and cosleeping a trendy new thing, OBVIOUSLY people are not going to do it properly because its not normal to them. That is when tragic things happen. This is a sad effect of our consumer based puritan culture, not cosleeping mothers.

Home Loans March 21, 2011, 11:29 AM

thanks !! very helpful post!

Home Loans March 22, 2011, 4:29 AM

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Jenny April 19, 2011, 5:18 AM

I think having a bed or bassinet next to your bed is a good idea. Breast feeding essential. But have people met attachment parenting kids?

I know a boy who is reckless and so aggressive and fights everything, I think, as a reaction to attachment parenting. In searching for his autonomy he has become a little monster.

I think all of these parenting ideas must be measured by a family’s resources. If attachment parenting means the mother is chronically sleep deprived and grouchy and paranoid, never letting the kids go outside or whatever, it is a bad idea.

I just think all theories need to be watched to see if they work. It is my opinion boys need autonomy. I would probably attachment parent a new born to 1 year old. But by 1 1/2 my child would be in his own bed and by 2 he would be in daycare 10 hours a week, learning to interact with other children and learning autonomy, even if I had to be there with him.

I just think if you are going to attachment parent a boy, go interview older boys who have been attachment parented. I’d love to see the results long term. Anecdotally they seem horrific to me.

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