Six mothers and two couples in Omaha went to sleep with their babies this year and woke up to find them dead. Each time, the cause was listed as sudden infant death syndrome – a conclusion questioned by professionals who review child deaths in Nebraska. Though some groups defend bed sharing as an aid to bonding and breast-feeding, several prominent medical organizations discourage the practice because of the risk of smothering and other deadly accidents. The Omaha World-Herald is examining the issue in a series of stories.
Coroners and their pathologists in Nebraska don’t consistently separate SIDS cases from child deaths involving bed sharing, even though more agencies across the nation have begun making that distinction. Local and national experts contend the change could improve medical research on classic SIDS cases and identify factors that could save other children. “If you know where the risks are, you can educate people about the risks,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, chairwoman of the Nebraska Child Death Review Team and deputy chief medical officer for the State Health and Human Services System.