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Co-sleeping parents charged with murder

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Court refuses to dismiss charges

Tragedy struck a family in Utah, but the law isn't on their side. They have been accused of killing their infant son as he co-slept with them, and it isn't the first time a similar calamity has happened to this particular couple.
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Should they be charged with murder? Read on to decide for yourself.

Three-month-old Kayson Merrill was found dead in his mom and dad's bed in 2006, and his parents have been charged with child abuse, homicide and reckless endangerment. Recently, the Utah Court of Appeals declined to dismiss the charges. Co-sleeping is a time-honored practice, but there are rules to follow and his parents may not have co-slept safely, particularly because the same thing happened with another baby a few years earlier.

Not the first time

Kayson was put to bed in between his mom and dad on his back and was found on his stomach the next morning, having died in the night.

As he was too young to have mastered rolling over on his own, the court considers that evidence that his father was directly responsible for his death by the act of co-sleeping.

Three years prior, the couple's infant daughter died in a similar manner -- in her parents' bed. That death was ruled accidental and her parents were not charged.

Details of her death will be permitted in the trial, despite the defense saying it will prejudice the jury.

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Is co-sleeping dangerous?

We reported earlier on a Milwaukee Health Department's ad campaign that equated co-sleeping with putting your little one to bed with a giant knife. The ad caused quite a controversy, as many parents co-sleep safely with their little ones and felt that the inflammatory advertisements were not accurate.

Alisha, mother of three, feels that co-sleeping is a safe practice. "Personally, I think co-sleeping, when done safely, creates a great bond with parents and baby," she said.

The article also said the baby was low weight. There could be other factors too, like formula feeding or cigarette smoking or drug use.

However, many parents we polled felt that the co-sleeping environment around Kayson may not have been safe at all. "Sounds like super unsafe co-sleeping," said Melody from Texas. "The baby was in between the parents."

Emily, mom of one, agreed. "There is obviously something being done wrong by these parents as this is the second baby to die in bed with them," she explained. "If I had one child die in bed with me, I probably wouldn't try it with another. Unfortunately, this just ads more fuel to the fire for anti-co-sleepers."

Safe co-sleeping

There are important steps to take if you decide to sleep with your infant. Your baby should ideally be between you and a bedroom wall, not in between you and the baby's dad. Your mattress should be firm and there should be no fluffy blankets, pillows or stuffed animals surrounding your baby. You should also never co-sleep when you have been drinking or using drugs -- even prescription drugs that may make you drowsier than usual.

Aubrey, mother of two, shared, "I co-sleep but my husband doesn't because he is a heavy sleeper and is worried that he wouldn't realize if he rolled over on the baby."

The case is a tragic one to be sure, and the parents have to be going through tons of misery, but hopefully safe co-sleeping can still be desired and practiced by new parents as long as they know the rules.

More on co-sleeping

Safe co-sleeping
The co-sleeping debate
Tips for safe co-sleeping

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