“It’s avoidable.” Sheriff pushes for prevention efforts after infant co-sleeping death

The Center for Childhood Safety in Brown County demonstrates the proper and safe way for an...
The Center for Childhood Safety in Brown County demonstrates the proper and safe way for an infant to sleep, on a firm surface, on a baby's back, with no blankets or other objects in the bed.(WBAY)
Published: Jan. 3, 2022 at 5:07 PM CST
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - The recent death of a baby in Brown County prompts reminders about the risks of co-sleeping with young children and a push to prevent any others.

The Brown County Sheriff’s Office tells Action 2 News investigators responded to a report of a 3-month-old who wasn’t breathing Monday, December 27.

They are calling the baby’s death the result of co-sleeping.

Investigators say these are tragic incidents that are generally not criminal but they’re still tragic and happening too often, involving a baby sleeping with either a parent or sibling.

“For most law enforcement officers that experience that type of call, it’s something that you never forget,” says Brown County Sheriff Todd Delain.

He’s responded to child deaths many times in his career, but every one of them is heartbreaking.

With the county often responding to one or more co-sleeping child deaths each year, Delain wants to focus on ways to stop them.

“It’s a situation where we hear comments after the fact of.... I should have done this or I should not have done this,” he says. “It’s so true, because it is avoidable. The co-sleeping issue is a big problem, especially if it becomes a pattern.”

As a dad himself, Delain understands the exhaustion felt when a parent falls asleep with a child, but he’s concerned the more it happens, the greater the risk to that baby.

“It is the number one thing that you need to worry about for a child under the age of one is a sleep death,” says Kimberly Hess, executive director of the Center for Childhood Safety in Brown County.

Her job is all about preventing tragedy and keeping kids safe.

It’s why Hess takes any chance she can to remind families of the importance of having a place for children, especially infants, to sleep on their own.

“They’re very much preventable. If you don’t have a Pack ‘n Play, there’s plenty of things you can use beyond it, but we really do not want to co-sleep at all,” says Hess. “I mean floor would be a better option than co-sleeping. We just can’t control what happens while we’re sleeping at night... the blanket, ourselves, etc.”

For any family that can’t find or afford a crib or bed for a young child, the Center for Childhood Safety will give a parent a Pack ‘n Play portable playard.

In fact, the center has given away so many in the last few years, when we were there, they had only one left in stock.

But more will be coming, and they’re happy to give those away, too, if it means a baby will be sleeping in a safer environment.

With that Pack ‘n Play comes education about making sure infants sleep on a firm surface, away from blankets or pillows, and never co-sleeping, either with a parent or a sibling.

“They’re so squishy and pliable that they sink into an adult mattress, and it closes off their airway,” explains Hess.

She says up to 80 percent of child co-sleeping deaths locally happened in homes where a crib was available but not used, showing the need for awareness and education as well.

“(I’m) a parent. You are exhausted. Lord knows we wish they came with sleep cycles but they don’t, but it usually is in the time of exhaustion, so we say room share, don’t bed share. Make sure you have that pack ‘n’ play right next to the bed, so when you’re done feeding in the middle of the night, you can just turn and put them in,” says Hess

Click here to learn more about the Center for Childhood Safety or you can call the Center at (920) 272-0110.

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