Tulsa Police Believe 'Co-Sleeping' Responsible For Deaths Of Infants

Monday, March 16th 2015, 6:29 pm
By: News On 6

Police had to investigate the deaths of two infants over the weekend. It happened in two different homes but the situations were similar - both children were sleeping with their parents.

They call it “co-sleeping” and said those types of situations are 100 percent preventable.

Investigators, like TPD Child Crisis Detective Danielle Bishop, said it's a choice you can make 100 times and nothing happens, but it just takes one time and the consequences are devastating.

"It is, I mean, I understand from a parent's perspective if your baby's fussy or whatever the case may be, he sleeps better with you. I completely understand that, but what we see is definitely not worth it," she said.

Bishop investigates incidents where children die in the home and said she see's deaths involving "co-sleeping" far too often.

National Institute Of Child Health And Human Development

"Unfortunately we've had baby deaths where parents were co sleeping on couches, in beds, we've had a few in some awkward situations where people just aren't putting their baby in a crib where they should be sleeping," she said.

It's a problem people like Kayla Robison and the Tulsa County Health Department said it's emphasizing to parents.

"A lot of moms, you know, they listen to their moms and their aunts, 'Well I've slept with all my previous seven children so it won't happen to me.' They kind of have that mentality, so it kind of takes something and hitting that message and driving home that they will listen and change that behavior," Robison said.

Robinson and the Health Department are hoping to change the behavior that puts an infant in an unsafe situation, like sleeping with family, pets, or in beds.

“Basically anywhere that isn't a crib is considered an unsafe sleep environment," Robinson said.

Investigators said, even though sleeping with your child is not usually a crime, it can be if parents have had more than one child die because of sleeping with their parents or if any type of neglect is involved.

Bishop and her unit investigate cases like these all the time and said it's hard, especially when the loss could have been prevented.

"Devastated. The parents are absolutely devastated and we have to remain professional and get answers to our questions and we try to do it quickly because we know that they are in a lot of pain and we understand that," she said.

The Tulsa Health Department said between 2009 and 2012, 56 infants died because of unsafe sleeping environments, co-sleeping or a combination of both; that averages out to about 14 deaths a year.