A parent’s worst nightmare

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“Way more than half of the dead babies I’ve had in the emergency room have been co-sleeping,” Dr. Lydia Holm, a physician in pediatric emergency medicine at Blank Children’s Hospital, told the Des Moines (Iowa) Register. “It can happen any time of the day or night.”

Holm shared with a Register editorial writer the tragedies she regularly encounters due to parents sharing a bed with or napping with infants.

“We’re in the ER, running around taking care of a variety of sick and injured kids, and the ambulance phone rings. The charge nurse looks up at me with a solemn face and a shake of the head. My heart plummets. It’s another CPR in progress — meaning that the first responders were called to a child down and are performing CPR on the way in. We immediately get ready.”

The ambulance arrives but the baby is already gone. Staffers do everything they can, opening airways, giving medications and pumping the tiny chests.

“The parents are in the corner sobbing and begging. I’m the doctor. I’m the one who has to tell mom nothing is working and we’re going to stop. I call the time of death and hear her wail, and beg us to keep going.”

Her advice to parents is simple: Place your baby in its own crib, on his or her back.

That is the advice from numerous medical professionals, including the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group’s latest “safe sleep” recommendations say parents should share a bedroom with infants, but not share a bed.

About 3,500 babies die each year in the United States because of “unsafe sleep environments,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet parents may disregard the advice of medical experts. Or they think a deadly accident will never happen in their family. Or they may be exhausted, nursing a newborn and fall asleep.

SIDS-related deaths dropped dramatically after a national campaign promoting safe sleep practices for infants. A similar campaign may be needed to discourage co-sleeping.

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