- A Cincinnati woman was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of her baby from co-sleeping, authorities say.
- Brooke Hunter, 23, was charged because she had been warned about the risks of co-sleeping in the death last year of another of her children.
- Co-sleeping – an infant sleeping with one or more parents in a bed, couch or chair – increases the risk of an infant’s suffocation.
A Cincinnati woman has been indicted for involuntary manslaughter in the death of her 6-week-old infant – almost a year after another of her children died in a similar manner, authorities said.
Brooke Hunter, 23, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and child endangering after the June 22 death of her infant, who died as the result of co-sleeping, the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office in Ohio said.
Hunter had been “advised of the dangers of co-sleeping” after her 6-week-old baby died in a very similar manner almost one year ago and wasn’t charged in the death, assistant prosecutor Amy Clausingtold USA TODAY. But because of the prior incident, the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office ruled the second child’s death a homicide, Clausing said.
A grand jury indicted Hunter in the second child’s death and a warrant has been issued for her arrest, Cincinnati television stations WCPO-9 and Fox19 reported.
Rarely have parents faced felony charges or any charges in the case of co-sleeping infant deaths. However, parents have been charged in North Carolina and Florida.
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What is co-sleeping?
Co-sleeping is the practice of having an infant or child sleep in the same bed, couch or chair as the parents. This may be common in many cultures or societies, but co-sleeping can be hazardous for infants, experts say.
There’s a risk of an infant suffocating when an adult rolls over on them or covers them up. Risks of sleep-related infant deaths increase five to 10 times when an infant under the age of four months of age sleeps on the same surface with someone else, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
About 3,500 infants die each year in the U.S. from sleep-related deaths, the academy says. The AAP recommends that parents sleep in the same room – but not in the same bed as a baby, preferably for at least the first six months.
“We know that many parents choose to share a bed with a child, for instance, perhaps to help with breastfeeding or because of a cultural preference or a belief that it is safe,” said Dr. Rebecca Carlin, who co-authored the academy’s Safe Sleep Recommendations, released in June 2022. “The evidence is clear that this significantly raises the risk of a baby’s injury or death, however, and for that reason AAP cannot support bed-sharing under any circumstances.”
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Those safe infant sleep recommendations were released just a week after the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Fisher-Price issued a warning to parents on not using infant rockers for sleeping.
At least 13 infant deaths have been reported in Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rockers and Newborn-to-Toddler Rockers between 2009 and 2021, the company and agency said in a joint statement in June. Fisher-Price has not recalled the rockers themselves.
Safe infant sleep recommendations
- Infants should sleep on their backs on flat non-inclined surfaces without soft bedding, the AAP says.
- Babies should always sleep in a crib or bassinet without soft toys, pillows, blankets or other bedding.
- Sitting devices, such as car seats, strollers, swings, infant carriers, and infant slings, are not recommended for routine sleep in the hospital or at home, particularly for infants younger than 4 months.
- Babies put to sleep on their sides are at increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). A baby can sleep in their chosen position after starting on their back once they can roll from back to stomach and from stomach to back on their own, experts say. But, if they can only roll one way on their own, they should be put back on their back if they roll onto their stomach during sleep.
“A baby’s death is tragic, heartbreaking and often preventable,” said Dr. Rachel Moon, lead author on the AAP’s safe sleep statement and technical report. “If we’ve learned anything, it’s that simple is best: babies should always sleep in a crib or bassinet, on their back, without soft toys, pillows, blankets or other bedding.”
Contributing: Cameron Knight, Cincinnati Enquirer.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.