After Vanessa Clark's baby died while sleeping with her and her husband, she was convicted of child endangerment, which may sound odd. After all, co-sleeping isn't against the law -- until you learn that this is the second baby to die in their bed.
In 2009, Vanessa and Mark Clark experienced a parent's worst nightmare. Their baby, Christian, died of SIDS while sleeping in their bed. No charges were filed, but CPS workers reportedly either warned the couple to not co-sleep with future children or counseled them on safe co-sleeping practices.
In June 2011, the unthinkable happened -- again. Two-month-old Tristan was found unresponsive, and Vanessa told paramedics the baby had been co-sleeping with mom and dad. Once officials connected both stories, Vanessa was prosecuted and subsequently convicted of child endangerment. Mark, the babies' dad, may soon follow suit as there are plans in place to try him on similar charges.
As Vanessa was found to have elevated levels of hydrocodone (a narcotic) and Xanax (an anti-anxiety medication) in her blood, it may be she was not co-sleeping safely and put her baby in danger by doing so.
Some parents we asked were adamantly against co-sleeping in any manner. "It's stories like this that make me worry about the co-sleeping trend," said Shelly, mom of one. "It seems that babies are safer in a crib where you can completely control their environment."
Jessica from Oklahoma agreed. "I would never, ever sleep with a baby," she told us. "It's completely dangerous and parents who do it -- like this mom -- are lazy and borderline negligent."
Other parents felt co-sleeping is safe if done correctly, but this couple wasn't following the safe sleeping rules. "She was doing everything wrong. The baby was sleeping in between them, she was on sedatives -- how careless can one person be?" said Heather, mom of two. "I don't believe co-sleeping is unsafe if done correctly, but I do believe that practicing unsafe co-sleeping counts as child endangerment. It's like putting a baby in a car without a carseat."
Ashley from Wisconsin had similar feelings. "I cannot believe this woman did this to another child," she said. "These children died because of carelessness. She should go to prison for a very long time. Some people should not be able to have another child when they do something like this -- not once but twice. It makes me really sad."
Vanessa is off to prison most likely (sentencing has yet to take place) but there is no happy ending brewing for this family, which has suffered through the heartbreak of two infant deaths. It's a situation that affects not only mother and father but their entire family, as well. It can be hoped that stories like this lead to safer co-sleeping habits for others, which includes no drugs or alcohol, a firm sleeping surface and no pillows or fluffy blankets around the baby. Safe co-sleeping can -- and should -- be done.
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