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Four infants die in past week after "co-sleeping" with parents

In the last week, four Franklin County infants have died after co-sleeping with adults. The county coroner is alerting parents to the dangers that come with co-sleeping.

Franklin County Coroner Brad Lewis said four presumably healthy babies, all two months old or younger, died within the last week - they all had been sleeping in the bed with their parents when they died.

"You know, it's almost counterintuitive. You think you're doing the right thing and being a good parent by bringing the child to bed with you," Lewis said.

Lewis said co-sleeping poses significant risks to infants and young children. He said the parent can rollover on the baby causing him or her to smother. Lewis said co-sleeping also increases the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.

Lewis said he has not determined yet if the infants' death resulted from a "roll-over" or from SIDS.

Lewis said risk factors for SIDS are the child sleeping on its stomach or side; on a soft mattress or with pillows and blankets and becoming overheated during sleep.

And he said, "All those risk factors are more likely to occur when the child is sleeping with an adult. It tends to be a hotter environment because of the body heat of the adult. The bedding tends to be softer - there's pillows and blankets, often a softer mattress. Because of the movement of the adult the child may end up on its side rather than on its back. And that in turn increases the risk of SIDS."

Nationwide Children's Hospital director of primary care, William Cotton, added it's a bad idea for parents to co-sleep with their infant if they've been drinking or using drugs.

"Rollover is more likely to happen because they won't wake up when they do cover the child," Cotton said.

Cotton suggested parents do not co-sleep at all. He said the safest place for the infant is in their own crib or bassinet in the parents' bedroom.

"That way the child's there as you need them. But they're also safe in their own little environment," Cotton said.

Cotton said if a parent insists on co-sleeping, he suggested using as few blankets and pillows as possible and place the infant away from a wall or headboard so they can not get wedged.

Lewis said the coroner's office does not think there was anything suspicious in any of the four recent deaths - only tragic coincidence.

"It's truly a matter of doing as I say and not as I do. When my little boy was two months old I was not county coroner. And many a night he slept in our bed with us, but if I knew then what I know now I would not do that. We were lucky we didn't have any tragedy result from that," Lewis said.

The Franklin County Coroner's most recent statistics show there were 24 instances of SIDS in 2004. There is no category for suffocation due to adults rolling over infants listed with accidental death causes.