Bed-sharing death highlights need for education

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, October 9, 2013

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Nine children under the age of 18 died in Wise County in 2011, including one due to sleeping in the parents’ bed.

That was among the findings of the recent child fatality review team.

Patti Shearin, program specialist for community health services at the Texas Department of State Health Services, shared the results at a recent Wise County Health Forum meeting in Decatur.

Six of the nine children were under the age of 1.

Perhaps most concerning, Shearin said, was the death from “co-sleeping,” where an infant shares a bed with an adult or another child.

“We’re geared toward prevention, so co-sleeping is the most concerning,” she said. “I am a ‘safe to sleep’ champion. We promote informing parents not to sleep in bed with their children.”

Decatur pediatrician Dr. Amanda Lovette, a member of the local child fatality review team, said infants who sleep in the same bed as their parents have an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

“Part of that is parents who are exhausted,” Lovette said. “They are tired and want to let that baby sleep with them, but they could roll over on the baby.”

She said the local co-sleeping death was caused when the parent rolled over on the child, causing suffocation.

The risk of SIDS becomes even greater, Lovette said, when co-sleeping is practiced by a parent who has been drinking or doing drugs.

“In that case, they don’t have the ability to wake up,” she said.

If another child is in the bed as well, the chance for SIDS increases fivefold.

Infants could still be at risk for SIDS even if a parent or child doesn’t roll on top of them.

“Parents who co-sleep often pull the blankets up tight around them, but if the blanket covers the child’s face, they risk the baby suffocating,” Lovette said.

The child could also get its head wedged in rails or openings on the bed, causing strangulation.

It might be tempting for a mother who is breast feeding to allow the child to sleep next to her in bed, but Lovette said it is best to lay the baby back in its bassinet or crib in the same room when the mother is ready to go back to sleep.

Shearin said she wants to get the word out to young families and child care providers about the Safe to Sleep campaign. A recent national study shows that more education might be needed.

According to a study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the percentage of parents who reported sharing a bed with their child doubled from 6.5 percent in 1993 to 13.5 percent in 2010. The study noted that more than half the parents surveyed since 2006 said they had not been told by their doctor about the risks of bed sharing.

In addition to the death attributed to co-sleeping, the other eight local deaths included:

  • three due to prematurity
  • one due to a birth defect
  • one due to an accidental gunshot
  • one due to a car accident
  • one due to muscular dystrophy.
  • one due to SIDS (exact cause undetermined)

The good news, Shearin said, was that the infant mortality rate for Wise County is 3.7 for every 1,000 live births, That is much better than the state rate of 6.1 per 1,000 and the national rate of 6.15 per 1,000.

For more information about the Safe to Sleep campaign, visit

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