It all starts with the best of intentions. A parent, wanting to make sure his or her infant gets a good, restful night’s sleep, decides to bring the child to the adult bed. But during the night, something goes horribly wrong. The parent wakes up and discovers that the baby is dead.
Parents may think sleeping with their infant is fine and that the child will sleep better but this scenario can have fatal consequences. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the practice of co-sleeping puts babies at risk of suffocation and strangulation. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the practice of room-sharing with parents without bed-sharing. The AAP also believes that room-sharing reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The practice of co-sleeping is certainly controversial in the United States. Those who support it believe that it encourages breastfeeding by making nighttime breastfeeding more convenient. They also argue that it makes it easier for the child to fall asleep and helps infants get more nighttime sleep because they awaken more frequently with shorter duration of feeds, which can add up to a greater amount of sleep throughout the night.
While there’s nothing in the law saying that your child must sleep in a crib, you need to think of the potential end result and what could happen to your child. Legally, there is always the potential for the claim that when an infant dies in this fashion it is a negligent act and, therefore, that negligent act resulted in the death of another. The parent (or other adult involved) could be charged with negligent homicide.
In my opinion, this kind of scenario is not dissimilar to those who leave a child unattended in the bath tub and the child drowns. You can’t put your child into a high-risk situation when you should know better. There is a distinct possibility, in fact a high probability, that your child could be seriously hurt or killed as a direct result of your actions.
The ultimate penalty, of course, is the loss of your child. Nobody wants to wake up to this terrible tragedy. It’s the fear of this incredible loss that creates nightmares for any parent because you don’t want harm to come to your child.
We see the warning signs posted in any doctor’s office or any government building that deals with child care: NEVER SLEEP WITH YOUR INFANT. My advice is to listen to the child care experts when they tell you that your child needs to sleep in their own safe crib or other sleeping environment, their own bed if they are old enough.
Pay attention to this advice because you don’t want to suffer the loss of your own child. At the same time, keep in mind the potential criminal penalties that you might also incur. Being charged with negligent homicide will only compound the sense of grief and loss you will feel if your child is lost in this way.
About Attorney Mark Powers
Attorney Mark Powers is a partner at the criminal defense law firm of Huppertz & Powers, S.C. in Waukesha. Previously, Powers served as an Assistant District Attorney with the Waukesha County District Attorney's office as well as a municipal judge in North Prairie. He currently focuses in the area of criminal defense, and has handled many cases involving operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, domestic disputes, and drug offenses.
Powers attended Valparaiso University School of Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Prior to law school, Mark attended the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse where he received his bachelor of science in Political Science.