Sleep shouldn’t be dangerous

Have you ever been trapped under a sedan with no way to cry out or free yourself? I am truly sorry if you have, but you probably have not. The notion of being completely powerless and helpless is terrifying. Fortunately, we rarely find ourselves in situations that could likely result in being trapped in such a way. Unfortunately, far too many infants are placed in a similarly dangerous situation on a nightly basis.

By Margaret Fisher, Lexington County Coroner

There are websites and people who encourage bed-sharing, a form of co-sleeping, which refers to an infant sleeping in the bed with one or both parents. The proposed advantages of bed-sharing include: convenient breastfeeding, synchronizing sleep cycles, babies falling asleep easier and getting more sleep, and strengthening the emotional bond between parents and infants. Researchers have posed that potentially fatal accidents or conditions may be prevented by sleeping next to an infant. Some sources go as far as to say that bed-sharing can prevent child abuse by reducing the lingering resentment that can be caused by sleep disturbances and exhaustion.

While I respect the research that has been done, my experience has taught me that there are no advantages that make it worth the risk. Infants die in this county at an alarming rate, and their deaths are almost always related to unsafe sleeping. In some cases their parents had only good intentions and did not realize the dangers. In other cases, the parents did not intend to cause harm but were impaired by medication, drugs, alcohol, or exhaustion. Even the researchers who support bed-sharing warn against doing so when impaired because of increased difficulty waking up if there is a problem, such as rolling over onto the infant.

Other possible hazards include sleeping with a baby on a couch, recliner, or in a chair; using pillows, comforters, and other soft items on the bed; falling asleep with a baby on your chest; covering a baby’s face. It is also important to ensure that the baby is placed on his or her back to sleep and is not at risk of overheating, falling off of the bed, or becoming trapped between a mattress and wall or bed frame. An informed decision should be made regarding where an infant is going to sleep, and the necessary precautions should be taken to ensure that hazards are minimized. The American Academy of Pediatrics, along with various other health professionals, recommend room-sharing rather than bed-sharing.

I know firsthand how overwhelming and important it is to make decisions that are best for the overall well-being of your child. I also know that it would be impossible to remove every potential danger from your child’s life. It is, however, completely possible to be informed and take precautions. I can’t convey to you how my heart breaks when I have to handle a situation involving parents who unintentionally ended the life of their precious baby. Please don’t let this happen to another helpless infant. Make safety a priority.

To keep you abreast of what has happened in Lexington County so far this year, here are the numbers of certain types of deaths that have occurred: 15 homicides, 38 suicides, 42 accidental overdoses, and 46 deaths due to motor vehicle collisions. These are the confirmed numbers of deaths due to those particular manners and/or causes as of October 22, 2019. Please remember to exercise caution, and seek appropriate help for yourself or anyone else in need.

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