Police, pediatricians warn co-sleeping could be deadly

Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 10:33 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2023 at 10:34 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is unexplained.

However, there is another kind of tragic death in infants that comes with a heartbreaking explanation. In this special Healthwise report, LPD has asked to get the word out about an alarming increase in infant deaths from co-sleeping.

Justin and Rebecca Skarda are the proud parents of Novalee. She is a little over one year old, but Justin remembers some close calls when she was younger.

“It’s happened. You fall asleep and you wake up quick and say, ‘man, I got to pay better attention,’” Justin said.

The CDC reports that every year, 3,500 babies across the country are lost to sleep-related deaths, including SIDS, but also co-sleeping. Co-sleeping is when a baby sleeps with a parent or grandparent. However, the baby does not wake up.

Kasie Davis, a public information officer at the Lubbock Police Department, discussed co-sleeping deaths in Lubbock.

“Right now, we have no reason to believe any of these are criminal in nature,” Kasie said, referring to the three infant deaths in Lubbock so far this year that have been linked to co-sleeping. She said other cases are suspected, but still under investigation.

“More than likely, we’ll have more,” Davis’ supervisor, Captain Leath McClure, added.

Last year, there was one co-sleeping death.

“Even one co-sleeping death a year is one too many,” McClure said.

Dr. Brittany Mitchell is a pediatrician at the UMC Children’s clinic at 98th and Frankford. She stated kids literally grow up in a pediatrician’s office from the day they are born. Sadly, this year, they learned a baby’s well-check appointment was canceled at the clinic because of a co-sleeping death.

So, why is it that even when parents are so positive this would never happen to them, a baby stops breathing?

“That’s definitely one of those developmental milestones and why these things get less risky as we get older,” Mitchell explains. “But if they were to get their face in an unsafe position, they may not be able to pick their head up and move it in a way that allows them to breathe again.”

However, she says an older child understands they are in a position where they cannot breathe, so they move.

“They have the strength and the tools to do that in a way that a baby just doesn’t at this point.”

Mitchell warns that co-sleeping deaths do not just happen in a bed.

“Honestly, couches and armchairs can be even more dangerous than co-sleeping with an infant in a bed,” she said.

Justin explained it perfectly: “It’s the most comfortable place to go to when you get off work.”

Thankfully, this did not happen to Justin and Rebecca. Novalee is fine. But, he said it could have.

“I thought I had enough control to stay awake, but you get comfortable, you know,” Justin said. “Working hard, had a long day, didn’t sleep well the night before because she was fussy. Whatever the reason may be, it happens.”

Mitchell said even the close calls can be scary.

“Even if babies survive, if they have had prolonged loss of oxygen to the brain, they can go on to develop developmental delays and seizure disorders, other problems,” Mitchel said.

The bottom line from pediatricians and police is that families need to understand that co-sleeping deaths or injuries can be prevented if every baby sleeps in their own crib or bassinet until a doctor says they are mature enough to move when they need to.

“This can stop. It’s not a crime. It’s not a homicide. It’s not gang violence. It’s not drugs. This is one thing, as a community, that can stop. And it doesn’t happen anymore,” McClure said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics stated the only safe way to put a baby to sleep is to put them on their back in their own crib with no loose objects or bedding in the area.

Since this interview, one more co-sleeping death has been confirmed in Lubbock, totaling to four babies this year, with other cases still under investigation.