Co-sleeping blamed for spike in Travis Co. infant deaths

(File Image/AP)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thirteen infant suffocation deaths were reported in Travis County last year, the most since 2010. Officials said 11 of the deaths were associated with bed-sharing.

The county’s medical examiner’s office urged parents and caretakers not to sleep with their babies, or use blankets to keep them warm, as these are serious risk factors for suffocation. Six of the deaths occurred during the winter months of January, February and December.

“When they sleep with a parent or caregiver either on a bed or a couch, the surface of the mattress is very, very soft, so they can suffocate in that,” said Leanne Courtney, a forensic nurse and senior investigator with Travis County.

Courtney says co-sleeping with a baby is never recommended.

“A baby’s risk of suffocation is 40 times greater if they’re in and adult bed,” said Courtney.

Babies need to sleep alone in a crib or bassinet. Even then, there are dangers. In 2013, KXAN introduced you to a woman whose grandson died while sleeping in his crib.

“My daughter came running in with him and his lifeless body, screaming for help, and I tried my best to save him,” said Tami Vanderwilt, the baby’s a grandmother. “I tried to initiate CPR, rescue breathing, paramedics were called. He was STAR-Flighted out of here, but he just didn’t make it.”

Her grandson suffocated against the bumper pad on his crib, breathing in his own carbon dioxide.

“The baby can actually roll over and get their face wedged into that bumper pad,” said Courtney. She says blankets can even be dangerous in a crib. “If the baby moves around, the comforter can actually move and cover the baby’s face.”

“Parents can dress their baby in a sleep sack or one to two layers of a long legged one-piece sleeper instead,” a statement from the medical examiner’s office said. “Remember that if a baby begins to perspire, he or she is too warm.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations to increase safety for sleeping babies are simple and as easy as A-B-C. Babies should sleep:

  • Alone: Bed-sharing, which is sleeping with a baby on a bed, couch, floor or in a chair, is dangerous. Babies should sleep alone, not with an adult, child or animal. Room sharing with a baby is a better way to sleep near your little one.
  • On their Back: Not on their side or tummy. Place babies on their back for every sleep time, including naps and at night.
  • In a safety-approved Crib: Put babies on a firm surface, preferably a safety-approved crib with a firm crib mattress covered by a fitted sheet. Do not use bumper pads, pillows, blankets, sheep skins, soft objects, toys or stuffed animals anywhere in your baby’s sleep area. (Safety approved bassinets, play yards and portable cribs are acceptable). provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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