DALLAS — A Dallas infant’s death Wednesday could be the latest in what is shaping up to be a record-setting year for the number of babies who died while sleeping with an adult or another child.
The two-and-half-month-old girl died while sleeping with her father at a home in the 6300 block of Bellbrook Drive in southeast Dallas. Dallas police are investigating whether that played a role in her death. and are awaiting the results of an autopsy.
So far this fiscal year, state officials have recorded 172 deaths in Texas related to co-sleeping situations. Sixteen of those deaths were in Dallas County.
Those numbers have put the state on pace to outstrip the record of 174 co-sleeping deaths in fiscal year 2011.
The numbers are troubling, and state officials last month launched a $100,000 online advertising and social media campaign aimed at curbing the number of deaths linked to co-sleeping.
“A lot of people don’t realize just how many babies lose their lives every year with co-sleeping or bed-sharing as a factor,” said Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services. “That’s not saying that it necessarily caused those deaths, but we know that it was factor in each one.”
When an infant sleeps with an adult or older child, there’s an increased risk of accidental suffocation, being rolled onto, or falling off the bed, experts say.
“When you’re asleep, you’re not always aware of where the infant is,” said Molly Bloomfield, an injury prevention specialist with Children’s Medical Center Dallas. “It’s very dangerous. You never want to share a sleep space with an infant.”
Experts say children should sleep alone, on their backs with no blankets or bedding, in a crib and in a smoke-free environment. The temperature should be about 70 degrees.
Bloomfield also suggests that parents come up with other solutions, such as having the infant sleep very close to their bed in a crib or a bassinet.
But there are some moms — and even child-rearing experts — who say a child can safely sleep with an adult, and that it helps with the bonding process.
Vanessa Taylor, a Grapevine native, said she let her infant daughter, Preslie, sleep with her because she would not sleep for more than 45 minutes in a crib or next to a bed.
“I never planned on doing it, but when I realized she would only sleep with me, then I did a bunch of research on it and discovered it can be safer for her than babies sleeping alone in a crib,” said Taylor, who now lives in Temple.
Taylor got rid of the sheets. Preslie slept on top of the covers. Preslie’s father did not sleep near her.
“There are kids that die in beds, but there are kids that die in cribs,” Taylor said. “There are safe ways to do it."
Preslie slept with her until about seven-and-a-half months old, the mother said.
“She slept well, I slept well, and there you have it,” Taylor said.
Preslie is now 10 months old.
Taylor said she believes that experts need to do more than just have a prohibition against sharing a bed with an infant. Instead, they need to give parents tips on how to do it safely.
Gonzales, the CPS spokeswoman, is herself a new mother and understands why some parents do it, but she still recommends that they don’t.
“My baby is six months old, and I know how difficult it is when you’re extremely tired and you just want to do anything to get them to go to sleep, but what we've seen in these cases is that it really the safest for them to have their own space and have plenty of room to breathe,” Gonzales said.
For more information about safer sleeping for babies, check out this link from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.