Local District Attorney threatens to prosecute parents who co-sleep! - Mothering Forums

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Old 06-22-2008, 03:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Please help me! An article ran in our local paper today following the death of an infant due to the mother co-sleeping with the baby on a couch while under the influence of marijuana, alcohol and codeine. The DA goes on to state that he will prosecute ANY parent whose infant dies while co-sleeping.

I'll have to paraphrase and put in a few quotes since you have to be a subscriber to the paper to read to online edition.

It's a long article, so this quote is only a small fraction of it, but you'll get the idea:

Quote:
Newborn’s suffocation prompts a warning
Deschutes prosecutor contends parents in co-sleeping cases should know the risks and might face criminal charges
By Cindy Powers / The Bulletin
Published: June 22. 2008 4:00AM PST

The recent death of a Redmond infant has prompted Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan to issue a warning to parents about the dangers of sleeping with their babies.

“Almost everybody who has a baby is aware that, if you sleep with the baby and you roll over on top of it, you could kill it,” Dugan said. “So you are aware of that risk, and you consciously disregard that risk when you take your baby to bed, and now you are talking about (second-degree) man- slaughter.”

Earlier this month, Lacey Dawn Johnson, 25, and her husband, Brandon Joel Johnson, 26, were charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and criminal mistreatment in the death of their son, Mason Johnson.

Lacey Johnson has admitted to drinking beer, smoking marijuana and taking medication with codeine before falling asleep on a couch with the 10-day-old baby and accidentally suffocating him, according to police reports.

And while her choice to become intoxicated while caring for her baby upped the charges against her, Dugan says any parent who sleeps with a baby who is injured or killed as a result has a good chance of finding the case in front of a grand jury.

“The important thing is that parents have to realize the hazardous risk that they take when they put their newborn in a bed and sleep with them,” he said.

DDugan says sharing a bed with an infant, or co-sleeping, poses a “substantial risk” of harm to the baby, and Oregon law says disregarding that kind of risk is a criminal act.

“The law is the law is the law, and you bet I would take that case to grand jury. And if the grand jury found negligence or recklessness, then criminal charges would be filed,” Dugan said.
The article goes on to talk about the AAP warnings against co-sleeping. They also interviews two local mothers who safely co-sleep and advocate it as a way to aid breastfeeding and cope with sleep deprivation, and a DA from an adjoining county who says that he would most likely NOT prosecute parents for co-sleeping (unless other factors, like alcohol or drugs, were involved).


Anyway, I'm just sick over this. As if new mothers don't have enough to worry about! I am writing a letter to the paper and to the DA's office. I would love some ideas about what to cite to demonstrate the safety, benefits and prevalence of co-sleeping. I think pediatricians or authors of mainstream parenting books who support co-sleeping will be the most helpful. Obviously I'll talk about Dr. Sears, but any more ideas would be wonderful.

The tone I am trying to take is that co-sleeping is a valid parenting choice, supported by respected pediatricians and advocated in widely-read parenting books. While Mr. Dugan (the DA) may believe that co-sleeping is dangerous to the point of negligence, the parenting books I read prior to my daughter's birth, written by respected medical professionals, advocate co-sleeping as healthy and beneficial.

I've also posted to our local AP group and hope to find evidence of local pediatricians who support co-sleeping.

Anyway, thank you for any help/ideas you can give me.

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Old 06-22-2008, 04:34 PM
 
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Here's something I wrote, feel free to use any or all of it. If you'd rather have it in a word document, pm me with your email address and I'll send it.
hth,
Barbara

Is Bedsharing Safe?
A Look at the Evidence

Physicians and scientists disagree about where the safest place is for a baby to sleep. Although there is now consensus that it is safest for a baby to sleep in the same room with its parents (AAP 2005), there remains disagreement about the safety of a baby co-sleeping, or sleeping in an adult bed with his or her parents.

While it is true that the American Academy of Pediatrics has suggested that parents avoid bedsharing due to increased risks of SIDS (AAP 2005) , that recommendation has been criticized by a number of clinicians and researchers (e.g. Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine 2005; McKenna & McDade 2005). The research upon which these recommendations are based (e.g. Kemp et all 2000; Scheers et al 2003) fails to distinguish between different types of bedsharing conditions; therefore, the death of a baby who is smothered between couch cushions while sleeping with an intoxicated parent was placed in the same category as a voluntarily co-sleeping mother who has created a safe co-sleeping environment for her infant. When studies have distinguish between different co-sleeping conditions (Chen & Rogan 2004; Gessner et al. 2004), there is no increased risk of SIDS for breastfeeding infants in a safe bedsharing environment.

Bedsharing is a common practice both globally and in the United States, where as many as 78% of families bedshare at least part of the time (Lahr et al 2005). There are multiple examples of cultures with high bedsharing rates and low SIDS rates (e.g. Davies, 1985; Kibel et al 2000; Belarian et al 1989). In addition, a large global study found that compared with crib-sleeping cultures, those cultures with the highest co-sleeping rates either had the lowest SIDS rates of all, or did not even recognize SIDS as a phenomenon (Nelson et al, 2001).

Research simply does not support a universal condemnation of co-sleeping. Blair et al (1999) have pointed out the co-sleeping habits are variable enough that bedsharing cannot be considered a risk factor, but rather an environment in which particular risk factors occur. In addition, researchers have identified multiple benefits of co-sleeping for both mother and baby, including reduced incidence of reported sleep problems (Elias et al 1986; McKenna 2000); reduced crying (Ball 2003); increased sleep for mother and baby (Quillin & Glenn 2004); increased frequency and duration of breastfeeding (McKenna et al 1997; McCoy et al 2004.

There is also significant and compelling evidence that mother-infant co-sleeping alters the physiology of both mother and baby in ways that are actually protective against SIDS (e.g. Richard et al 1998; Richard et al 2004; Mosko et al 1996, 1997a, 1997b, 1997c).

No matter where your baby sleeps, it is essential to provide a safe sleeping environment. Infants should sleep on firm surfaces, clean surfaces, in the absence of smoke, under light blanketing, and their heads should never be covered. The bed should not have any stuffed animals or pillows around the infant, and an infant should never be placed to sleep on top of a pillow. Sheepskins or other fluffy material, and especially bean bag mattresses should never be used. Water beds can be dangerous, too, and always the mattresses should tightly intersect the bed-frame. Infants should never sleep on couches or sofas, with or without adults wherein they can slip down (face first) into the crevice or get wedged against the back of a couch. And of course all babies should be put to sleep on their backs.

In summary, there is not evidence to support the recommendation that all babies should sleep in cribs. It is essential to follow safe sleep guidelines no matter where a baby sleeps, but the decision about where a baby sleeps is legitimately guided by culture, parenting style, and other personal factors (e.g. McKenna & McDade, 2005).

Barbara Maclay Cameron, M.A., M.S.W.

References:
Academy of Breastfeedeing Medicine. 2005. Breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of SIDS. <http://www.breastfeedingtaskforce.org/SIDS/AAP-SIDS-ABM-response.htm>
American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. 2005. The changing concept of sudden infant death syndrome: diagnostic coding shifts, controversies regarding sleeping environment, and new variables to consider in reducing risk. Pediatrics 116:e530-42.
Balarajan R, Raleigh V, Botting B. 1989. Sudden infant death syndrom and postneonatal mortality in immigrants in England and Wales. BMJ 298:716-20.
Ball HL. 2003. Breastfeeding, bedsharing, and infant sleep. Birth 30:181-88.
Blair PS, Fleming PJ, Smith IJ et al. 1999. Babies sleeping with parents: case-control studies of factors influencing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. CESDI SUDI research group. BMJ 319:1457-62.
Chen A, Rogan W. 2004. Breastfeeding and the risk of post-neonatal death in the United States. Pediatrics 113:E435-E439.
Davies DP. 1985. Cot death in Hong Kong: a rare problem? Lancet 2:1346-8.
Elias MF, Nicolson NA, Bora C, Johnston J. 1986. Sleep/wake patterns of breast-fed infants in the first 2 years of life. Pediatrics 77(3):322-9.
Gessner BD, Ives GC, Perham-Hester KA. 2001. Association between sudden infant death syndrome and prone sleeping position, bed sharing, and sleeping outside an infant crib in Alaska. Pediatrics 108:923-7.
Kemp J, Unger B, Wilkins D et al. 2000. Unsafe sleep practices and an analysis of bed sharing among infants dying suddenly and unexpectedly: results of a four year, population-based death-scene investigations study of sudden infant death syndrome and related deaths. Pediatrics 106:e41.
Kibel MA, Davies MF. 2000. Should the infant sleep in mother’s bed? In Sixth SIDS International Meeting, Aukland, New Zealand, February 8-11, 2000.
Lahr BM, Rosenberg KS, Lapidus JA. 2005. Bedsharing and maternal smoking in a population-based survey of new mothers. Pediatrics 116: e530-42.
McCoy RC, Hunt CL, Lesko SM. 2004. Frequency of bed sharing and its relationship to breast feeding. Devel Behav Pediatrics 25:141-9.
McKenna JJ. 2000. Cultural influences on infant and childhood sleep biology and the science that studies it: toward a more inclusive paradigm. In Loughlin J, Carroll J, Marcus C, Eds, Sleep in Development and Pediatrics, New York: Marcel Dekker, pp. 199-230.
McKenna JJ, Mosko SS, Richard CA. 1997. Bedsharing promotes breastfeeding. Pediatrics 100(2):214-9.
McKenna JJ, McDade T. 2005. Why babies should never sleep alone: a review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding. Paediatr Respir Rev 6(2):134-52.
Mosko S, Richard C, McKenna JJ. 1997a. Infant arousals during mother-infant bed sharing: implications for infant sleep and sudden infant death syndrome research. Pediatrics 100:841-9.
Mosko S, Richard C, McKenna JJ. 1997b. Maternal sleep and arousals during bedsharing with infants. Sleep 20:142-50.
Mosko S, Richard C, McKenna JJ, Drummond S. 1996. Infant sleep architecture during bedsharing and possible implications for SIDS. Sleep 19:677-684.
Mosko S, Richard C, McKenna JJ, Drummond S, Mukai D. 1997c. Maternal proximity and infant CO2 environment during bedsharing and possible implications for SIDS research. Am J Phys Anthropol 103(3) 315-28.
Nelson E, Taylor B, Jenik A et al. 2001. International child care practices study: infant sleeping environment. Early Hum Devel 62:43-55.
Richard C, Mosko SS. 2004. Mother-infant bedsharing is associated with an increase in infant heart rate. Sleep 27:507-11.
Richard C, Mosko SS, McKenna JJ. 1998. Apnea and periodic breathing in bed-sharing and solitary sleeping infants. J Applied Phys 84:1374-80.
Scheers NJ, Rutherford GW, Kemp JS. 2003. Where should infants sleep? A comparison of risk for suffocation of infants sleeping in cribs, adult beds, and other sleeping location. Pediatrics 112:883-9.
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Old 06-22-2008, 04:53 PM
 
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Didn't he maybe consider that co-sleeping wasn't the issue and the fact they were drinking and high was?
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Old 06-22-2008, 05:31 PM
 
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How sad about this baby. How horrible this mom and dad must feel- and yet how totally preventable! There has to be KNOWLEDGE and INFORMATION about SAFETY.

This "It's BAD- don't do it" mentality our society has is as stupid as preaching abstenince as a sole means of birth controll/std prevention. People need to be educated about safety, and then they need to do what's best for THEM and THEIR BABIES.

I also hate the "high and mighty" attitude this DA has. He really needs a lesson in tact, parenting, and compassion.

Married to Michael and Mother of Jake 9, Jillianne 7, Jensen 5, Jacen 4. I've got severe osteoporosis, a fractured hip and chronic pain-so please be patient with me! Pagan,Crocheter,Reader,Homeschooler- that's me in a nutshell.

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Old 06-22-2008, 05:38 PM
 
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Pinky- I like your letter (yet hope the smiley is only for mothering) and think you did a good job.

I'm saddened because I don't think it's going to do anygood. THese people, like avid pro-vaxers, aren't going to listen to us "Hippie fools" and that's what all there is to that. Even if science points to what we are doing, or even if the laws were to change to protect us- People like THIS DA aren't going to listen. That's what's sad.

I hope your letter helps to make a change in someone's mind- or in the ways they practice law.

Married to Michael and Mother of Jake 9, Jillianne 7, Jensen 5, Jacen 4. I've got severe osteoporosis, a fractured hip and chronic pain-so please be patient with me! Pagan,Crocheter,Reader,Homeschooler- that's me in a nutshell.

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Old 06-22-2008, 05:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarah W View Post
Didn't he maybe consider that co-sleeping wasn't the issue and the fact they were drinking and high was?


Seriously! Why not prosecute them for, um, consuming illegal drugs, and negligence since they were drunk and high and incapable of caring for their baby! A stoned and drunk parent can be a danger to the baby whether the baby is in a crib, swing, an adult bed, the parents arms, etc.
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Old 06-22-2008, 05:57 PM
 
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pinky - Good letter, but I would omit this line: "And of course all babies should be put to sleep on their backs." This is not backed up by references in your letter, and there are certain special needs children that should be placed to sleep other than on their backs, as recommended by their pediatrician. Additionally this line just muddies the argument, doing nothing to distinguish between crib sleeping and cosleeping.

Kim mama to DS 12/2005, Pepper kitty , and 10/03, 1/05;
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Old 06-22-2008, 07:36 PM
 
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Originally Posted by KimPM View Post
pinky - Good letter, but I would omit this line: "And of course all babies should be put to sleep on their backs." This is not backed up by references in your letter, and there are certain special needs children that should be placed to sleep other than on their backs, as recommended by their pediatrician. Additionally this line just muddies the argument, doing nothing to distinguish between crib sleeping and cosleeping.
Just to clarify, I didn't write this in response to this particular situation, just shared something I had previously written. Hopefully, the op can find some or all of it useful.

I didn't share references re: back to sleep b/c it is very big here in NC and not the point of contention for my particular audience. But there is very robust evidence that back-sleeping decreases SIDS in crib-sleeping babies--who probably are sleeping too deeply b/c they are sleeping alone, and putting them on their backs keeps them more aroused...but that's a whole other issue, you're right.

I think the really important point is that there are universal guidelines for safe sleep that apply whether or not your baby is sleeping in a crib or in an adult bed.

And just FYI, one interesting co-sleeping study found that in breastfeeding, co-sleeping pairs, babies are much more likely to be on their backs than crib-sleeping babies, whether or not the mothers are given that instruction--it's just a natural position for the breastfeeding baby to end up in.

Sigh. The one "good" thing about this example is that sleeping high on a couch with a baby is so clearly unsafe that it's hard to make a convincing argument that this is a typical represenation of bedsharing.
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Old 06-22-2008, 08:24 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Sarah W View Post
Didn't he maybe consider that co-sleeping wasn't the issue and the fact they were drinking and high was?
My thoughts exactly!!! I woudln't even call this co-sleeping. It is passing out. How about out-lawing passing out while under the influence with a child. IDIOT!

Mama to Ava (12/03) , Leila (4/06) , Violet (11/08) , and bonus mama to Madison (7/98)
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Old 06-22-2008, 08:41 PM
 
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ok, so he wants to punish parents who co-sleep because of this one case... so is he going to punish every parent who drives a car... cause you know.. some people get in accidents and people have died... so lets just punish EVERYONE who drives a car so that it won't happen again....
<<sarcasim>>
I think he should look more at the point that the mother was high on drugs and drunk.... that should be what the case is about...
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Old 06-23-2008, 04:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the feedback!

And, pinky, thank you so much for your well-researched article! I was able to work a statistic in, and I borrowed one of your sentences if you don't mind.

Anyway, here's my letter. Further suggestions are appreciated, I'll be sending it on Monday.

Quote:
I was dismayed to read of elected Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan’s warning to parents about what he considers to be the reckless dangers of co-sleeping with an infant. The case of Mason Johnson, the ten-day-old infant who suffocated after his mother slept with him on a sofa while under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs, is tragic. In no way, though, does it represent safe co-sleeping, recognized and recommended by many pediatricians and child development experts, and practiced at some point by as many as 78% of American parents. It is essential to follow safe sleep guidelines no matter where a baby sleeps, but the decision about where a baby sleeps is legitimately guided by culture, parenting style, and other personal factors.

My daughter’s own pediatrician asked at an early well-child appointment whether I had considered bringing my newborn into my bed in order to help us both get more sleep. I also consulted widely read and respected books on infant care, such as Dr. William Sears’ The Baby Book, which advocates co-sleeping as a safe option that can aid in breastfeeding and development of healthy attachment. I sought parenting advise from experts in infant development, which Mr. Dugan is not.

The blanket condemnation and implicit criminalization of this widely accepted parenting practice seems to be an attempt to put responsible co-sleeping parents on-notice.

Sincerely,

MK

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Old 06-23-2008, 02:24 PM
 
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"advice," not "advise," I think.

I hope you are heard!

Mama to EG, Mate to MD, Writer, Editor, International Jewel Thief.
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Old 06-23-2008, 02:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ooh, good catch! That's actually one of my grammar pet peeves. That's what I get for typing this thing at midnight last night.

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Old 06-23-2008, 07:28 PM
 
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Hi,

I'm in Central Oregon, too. I've never been on this site before but I was upset about the article and found this forum in a google search.
Please, send your letter to The Bulletin! Our DA is going crazy. This is the same one who sent a teenager to prison for 9 years for drag racing. This is just insane and I hope our community won't put up with this.

Becky
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Old 06-23-2008, 08:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yay! I just got a phone call - the paper is printing my letter (I emailed it this morning)!

...the cuties in my avatar are my wonderful, c-section born, fully vaccinated sweethearts...
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Old 06-23-2008, 10:10 PM
 
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Subbing so I can hear any updates.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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Old 07-06-2008, 04:42 PM
 
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I am another Central Oregonian who was also appalled at the lack of education AND compassion spoken by our elected DA. Today's paper, Sunday July 6th, has another letter to the editor regarding Dugan's comments and the recent letter above. Well done!! Hopefully the community will listen. This was indeed an awful tragedy, but not the cause of cosleeping. Cosleepers unite. Let us all pray for strength for the family of this horrible incident who, if Dugan has his way, will be charged with murder. The grief, guilt and responsibility that this couple feels must be immense.
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Old 07-06-2008, 05:06 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarah W View Post
Didn't he maybe consider that co-sleeping wasn't the issue and the fact they were drinking and high was?
: The babies drunk,druggie mother killed the baby NOT co-sleeping (which is was not:couch sleeping)

That baby did not have chance with a mother like that.

:CLC,Doula :Mama to 2
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Old 07-07-2008, 12:41 AM
 
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Mimie What a wonderful advocate you have been! Thanks for stepping up and speaking out when the need arose!
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Old 07-07-2008, 11:34 AM
 
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Originally Posted by hipmummy View Post
: The babies drunk,druggie mother killed the baby NOT co-sleeping (which is was not:couch sleeping)

That baby did not have chance with a mother like that.
thats a little harsh. im not defending the mother..what she did was wrong but she has paid teh ultimate price for her behavior. i would imagine prison or any other punishment will pale in comparison to the loss of a child.
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Old 07-07-2008, 09:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My letter appeared today, pretty much exactly as I wrote it here. Another local AP mother's letter appeared yesterday.

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Old 07-08-2008, 05:14 PM
 
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What b.s. He's politically grandstanding, nothing more. He can threaten anything he wants. There is a huge, huge, huge difference between saying consciously doing something you know will cause a substantial risk of harm is a crime under hte law (e.g. drinking lots of alcohol and driving) v. co-sleeping poses a substantial risk of harm UNDER THE LAW!!!

Obviously, the case presented, a mom drunk and high, who suffocated killed her baby is a very different case.
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