by Michele Zipp
On June 10, Terri Lynn Wells, 30, and Anthony C. Schlieper, 24, woke up to find their 4-month-old baby Anterio K. Schlieper unresponsive. The Moline, Iowa, family were co-sleeping. It is alleged that the mother and father were "morbidly intoxicated" -- so said Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson who is investigating the case with police. This is a true tragedy, and my heart breaks for this family and for the little boy whose life was cut short.
I'm inclined to believe that the parents didn't intend to harm their child. They made one mistake -- mixing drinking with co-sleeping. Co-sleeping didn't kill this child. The reported detail that the parents were intoxicated is what led to the fatal mistake. We should not villainize co-sleepers. It's like blaming a car seat for not keeping your child safe when you didn't install or buckle the child in correctly.
These parents have been charge with a felony -- endangering the welfare of a child. The investigation has so far revealed that they believe one of the parents rolled onto the child while sleeping. They are facing up to five years in prison.
Their loss is immeasurable, as is the pain they must feel. As the coroner stated, this was a preventable death. Still, we are human. There are accidents. We make mistakes. The mistake here is that the parents were intoxicated, creating an unsafe environment for co-sleeping. There are rules to be followed when co-sleeping, and it's not for everyone. But the majority of the people who do co-sleep on a daily basis are not putting their kids at risk for death.
I co-slept with my babies. It helped me be in tune with them as they slept. When they were infants, I would wake up before they started to cry, when they just began to stir. I was able to soothe them, change them, breastfeed them -- whatever it was that they needed -- before their bodies worked up into a cry, which could sometimes make the soothing part more challenging. Since they were right there next to me, it made the waking in the nighttime feedings so much easier. No stumbling down stairs or into another room. Bed sharing also keeps you closer to baby, not just proximity, but in bond -- these are just some of the benefits of co-sleeping.
With everything, there is a right way to do things and a wrong way. The decision to co-sleep while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including prescription) isn't a good one. The decision to co-sleep, the right way, is. Co-sleeping isn't deadly.
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Parents who co-sleep are doing so because it's best for their family, for their baby, for the well-being of their child. They do so out of love and care. Not out of negligence. This case is one instance -- a terribly sad and tragic instance -- of a way to co-sleep that isn't safe. We cannot say co-sleeping is bad or dangerous because of this case. We cannot believe or generalize that if you co-sleep, something bad will happen. Instead, we have to educate ourselves on safe co-sleeping practices. And not insult or vilify parents who do choose to co-sleep. Just like we cannot blame a car seat if your child was injured in an accident when the car seat wasn't being used properly. Just like we cannot blame a baby carrier for coming undone when it wasn't secured properly to begin with. Just like we cannot blame a pool if a child drowned.
My thoughts are with this family as they cope with this awful tragedy.
What are your thoughts regarding co-sleeping?
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