Co-Sleeping Deaths in Texas Could Set Record, Experts Explain Risks and Benefits

Co-Sleeping Deaths in Texas Could Set Record, Experts Explain Risks and Benefits

By Alicia Neaves

NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - It's only July but the State of Texas has already tied the total number of co-sleeping infant deaths from the year 2011. Experts discourage this practice but some parents say it has tremendous benefits. Unfortunately, the Permian Basin is not immune to this tragedy.

When we're referring to deaths by co-sleeping, that's when a baby is accidentally suffocated by either their parents, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals or even by another toddler. So NewsWest 9 set out to investigate further to see how the Permian Basin has fared in these cases.

"Some of the parents that really swear by co-sleeping feel that it's an opportunity to really be able to bond with that baby, and that's certainly a benefit. Mothers that are breastfeeding certainly feel that co-sleeping is much safer, it's quicker, easier for the baby then to have to get out of the bed, go to the crib and get the baby," Director of Population/Community Health for Medical Center Hospital, Diana Ruiz, said.

Even for parents who are out all day working, they see bedtime as their bonding time. But experts warn, co-sleeping has serious risks, not just involving suffocation but also SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

"Sometimes if the mother or father has maybe had a few drinks and gets in the bed with the baby, co-sleeping, they may accidentally, without even being aware, roll over that baby," Ruiz said.

Smokers can also pose a risk for SIDS.

"That's called third hand smoke. When it can be on the parent's clothing, on the mattress, on the bed sheets, even on the pillows. So if you place a baby on that surface that already has that cigarette smoke, already attached to it, that can also increase the risk of SIDS," Ruiz said.

So far this year, there have been 174 co-sleeping deaths in Texas. Six were in West Texas; one in Pecos, five in Ector County.

Experts say babies who sleep in cribs have the same risks as they would sleeping in their parent's bed, minus a larger companion.

Remember to always lay the baby on their back and keep the room at room temperature.

Sometimes culture or tradition might outweigh the risks.

"Some people just swear by it. It's what their parents, grandparents did, and their whole family even co-sleeps. Not to say that there's anything necessarily wrong with that, it's just something that you really have to think of from a medical standpoint. Is this the safest for myself, for my baby, my family?" Ruiz said.

Some states have even taken to PSA's to drive the message home. In 2011, the City of Milwaukee Health Department released a controversial PSA that shows a baby sleeping next to a knife. It reads, "Your baby sleeping with you can be just as dangerous."

It's important to note that that experts say co-sleeping with toddlers two years or older is safer than newborns.