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Infant deaths related to co-sleeping

May 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Experts say an infant sleeping in the same bed kills numerous L.A. County babies every year, yet many parents don't see it as a danger. That's why the sheriff's department and various other county agencies have launched the Infant Safe Sleeping campaign.Cuddling with her baby before a nap is one of the few times Lisa Pang ever shares a bed with 15-month-old Lexi. From day one Lexi always slept in a bassinet or crib.

"She was in our bedroom probably for the first two months in a bassinet next to our bed then we transferred her to her crib," said Lisa Pang.

L.A. County Health and law enforcement officials would like all parents to be like Lisa. According to the coroner's department, 86 infants died in L.A. County in 2006 and 2007 because of bed sharing.

"You could see how easy it would be judge from the size of me and the baby for me to roll over on the baby especially if I'm a heavy sleeper," said Dr. Fielding.

Many parenting and sleep experts agree where a child sleeps should be a personal decision. But one study says when an infant sleeps in adult beds versus a crib, the risk of suffocation increases 20 fold.

"We are pretty heavy sleepers and my husband and I just didn't want any accidents to happen," said Lisa.

"What we've learned is that you really don't need a crib or a bassinet you can use something as simple as a laundry basket or a drawer as long as it's not on same sleeping level with the adults," said Deanne Tilton.

Opponents of the campaign say sharing a bed with an infant can be done safely, but Deanne Tilton with the Council on Child Abuse and Neglect disagrees. She says just because most infants survive doesn't make it safe.

"You may have slept with three of your babies and nothing has happened. But it's just not worth the risk," said Tilton.

There are things parents can do to reach a happy medium. One of them is to buy a bassinet - often called a "co-sleeper" that attaches to or lines up to the bed. That way parents can have the baby close by, without the risks of sharing the bed.

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