Mother cautions against bed-sharing

10:55 PM, May 16, 2012   |    comments
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Lisa speaks about her son Dayton just as any loving mother does.

"He had dark brown hair, big blue eyes, and a great big smile. A ridiculous smile."

The pictures of Dayton show a little baby with a shock of brown hair and the kind of infectious grin that melts hearts.   

Dayton would have turned 10 this year. Sadly, he did not live to see his first birthday.    

For years, Lisa told well-meaning inquirers that her baby had died of SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She couldn't bring herself to share the truth.

"No one wants to tell them I rolled on top of my baby," she says.    

Lisa says her pediatrician encouraged her to sleep with her baby, telling her sharing a bed encourages bonding and longer breastfeeding.     

On October 27, 2002, Lisa woke to find Dayton not breathing. "I woke up and my shoulder was pressed against his face and he wasn't breathing," she says.    

Lisa's story is heartbreaking, but throughout Ohio, health officials say it's not uncommon. The Ohio Child Fatality Review Board reports that between 2005 and 2009, 66 percent of all infant sleep-related deaths occurred to babies who were sharing a sleep surface with another person.   

"When I look at just Cuyahoga County, every fall I am reminded that we average 21 sleep-related deaths a year. That's a kindergarten class of children that's not going to school but should be," says Lorrie Considine, a registered nurse, and program manager at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

"When we look at the state of Ohio, it's actually 7 kindergarten classes each year," she adds.    

The American Academy of Pediatrics is also against bed-sharing.

In recent years while the number of babies dying of SIDS has gone down, the number of babies dying of suffocation, strangulation and entrapment has gone up. "Every year, half of the babies that die in their sleep are sleeping with someone else," Considine says.   

Putting babies to bed alone with no adult or sibling is a key point in Cuyahoga County's Safe Sleep campaign, which also includes putting babies to sleep on their back, and in bare cribs: no blankets, bumpers or anything that could entangle a baby.    

"Many people think it won't happen to me. And unfortunately every year I hear from parents 'I didn't think it could happen to me, but my baby died. And if I could go back in time to that day, I wouldn't sleep with my baby," according to Considine.   

After reading statistics on how many children were dying, Lisa stopped hiding what happened to Dayton and started speaking publicly.

Her testimony in front of the Pennsylvania Senate helped pass legislation mandating new parents have to watch a video on safe sleeping before leaving the hospital.    

Lisa has heard from other parents who have suffered similar tragedies. But since she's gone public with her message, she's also endured backlash from parents who support the practice of bed-sharing.

Some of the email messages have been especially cruel.  "One of the worst I got was 'only drunk, druggies and fatties roll on top of their babies. Which one are you?" she shared.   

Speaking publicly about her private heartbreak, Lisa's goal is to give others the warning she says she never received.

"I never knew it could happen. It never crossed my mind that my baby could die in bed with me," Lisa says. 

Every county in Ohio has a Child Fatality Review Board that meets regularly to review deaths of children, from newborns up to 18 year olds.  Channel 3 reached out to counties in our viewing area asking them for statistics on infant sleep deaths, in which the baby was sharing a sleep space with another person. Some counties have compiled more current information than others. Here is the information they provided:

  • Portage County:   4 deaths            2005-2009
  • Wayne County:    1 death              2011
  • Stark County        26 deaths          2005-2010
  • Summit County    17 deaths          2003-present
  • Cuyahoga County 119 deaths        2001-2010
  • Ashtabula County  4 deaths          2009-2011
  • Trumball County    8 deaths          2005-2011
  • Geauga County     1 death            2006-2011
  • Medina County      4 deaths          2005-2011
  • Lake County          0                    2005-2011
  • Huron County        1 death            2005-2011
  • Lorain County        2 deaths          2011

  Additional Resources:

Safe Sleep Task Force and Cribs for Kids programs, housed at the Stark County Health Department, 330-493-9928, ext. 254


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