December 4, 2007

5-week-old dies while sleeping with mother

A 5-week-old infant died Monday while sleeping in bed with her mother, who may have rolled on top of her, Modesto police reported.

There were no signs of abuse and the death appears to have been accidental, said Sgt. Craig Gundlach, Modesto police spokesman.

The Stanislaus County coroner's office identified the girl as Nadia Romero.

About 1 a.m. Monday, the Modesto baby wasn't feeling well, said Gundlach. Her mother brought Nadia into bed at their home in the 3600 block of Seminole Lane.

The mother woke about 10 a.m. and saw that her baby wasn't breathing, so she called 911, said Gundlach. Rescue personnel responded and tried to revive the baby, but Nadia didn't respond. She was taken by ambulance to Doctors Medical Center, Gundlach said.

The mother, whose name wasn't released, lived in the home with the baby and two teenagers, Gundlach said.

A doctor pronounced Nadia dead just before 11 a.m., said deputy coroner Katie Soto. An autopsy likely will be performed, she added.

In July, a 3-month-old girl accidentally was smothered in Merced by her 10-year-old brother after he rolled over the infant in his sleep.

Controversy surrounds bed sharing, also called cosleeping or having a family bed. In 2004, eight accidental infant smothering deaths in 18 months led Philadelphia health officials to warn parents against bringing babies to bed with them.

Critics say cosleeping makes it too easy to suffocate a baby in thick covers or for an adult to roll on top of the infant. Supporters say safe bed sharing encourages breast-feeding, makes it easier for infants to sleep, and promotes the bond between mother and baby.

In 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement discouraging bed sharing. The academy acknowledged studies showing its effect in promoting breast-feeding and bonding. But, it cautioned, other studies showed that bed sharing "can be hazardous under certain conditions."

These studies linked infant death by suffocation to other children or parents in the bed. Some studies only showed a significant link among mothers who smoked. One European study found Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, to be a significant risk of bed sharing for infants up to 8 weeks old.

Most pediatricians endorse the pediatric academy's position on bed sharing, said Dr. Pamela Simms-Mackey, a pediatrician and the associate director of the pediatric residency program at Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland.

"But there are a lot of pediatricians who cosleep with their own kids or have patients who cosleep," she added. With her own patients who cosleep, she advises them not to smoke, not to have a lot of bedding, not to put infants underneath their covers and not to use substances that impair alertness. "We try to come up with a way to get the baby out of the bed."

Increase in cosleeping

Bed sharing has become more common since the 1990s, according to a study in 2003 by the National Institutes of Health. The study, a telephone survey of more than 8,000 people, found that the proportion of infants usually sharing an adult bed at night increased from 5.5 percent to 12.8 percent from 1993 to 2000.

Supporters of cosleeping say studies discouraging the practice often are skewed and that not enough research has been done to examine the results of healthy bed-sharing situations.

"They lump all kinds of sleeping situations together," said Dr. Linda F. Palmer, the San Diego-based author of "Baby Matters: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Caring for Your Baby." Water beds, sofas, beds where parents aren't present, they're all in the statistics, she said.

Often when infants die during cosleeping, she said, the baby is already sick or the bed sharing was a result of an impromptu, rather than established, decision.

"With cosleeping, the mother can monitor the baby throughout the night. Mother's hormones are there to wake up and listen. Her filters are on," said Palmer, who practiced cosleeping with her son. "And mothers get more sleep. I don't think I would have slept at all otherwise. I would have been up every hour looking in the crib to make sure he was still breathing."

To comment, click on the link with this story at www.modbee.com. Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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