WILKES-BARRE – After the death of a fourth infant that could have been prevented, Luzerne County's acting coroner is warning parents not to sleep with newborns or place heavy blankets and stuffed animals in cribs.
Three infant deaths were blamed on sleeping parents rolling over on their babies, Acting Coroner William Lisman said, noting the fourth infant died this week from a lack of oxygen due to being wrapped in a heavy blanket.
Lisman and county Lt. Detective Gary Sworen on Friday discussed the tragic cases they said could have been prevented.
"We're here to tell parents, when you're tired and the baby is crying, put the baby down," Lisman said.
"Don't put yourself in a situation that you can dose off. Definitely don't sleep with your baby. Don't put yourself in a recliner when the baby has been fussing all night and don't put yourself in a position where you can fall asleep.
"Most of the time, nothing happens. But three times this year it did happen. These little kids could be toddling around today….instead of being gone because of an accident," Lisman said.
Lisman and Sworen said the tragic cases involve first-time parents and parents who have older children.
"The younger the infant is, it is easier for asphyxiation," said Sworen, who investigates crimes and deaths involving children. "Say you have a 3-week-old and you fall asleep. All you do is put your arm across the baby's chest and the child is unable to breath. The chest can't expand."
Reading from autopsy reports, Lisman provided a brief description of how the infants died.
• A 3-week-old girl died in January when the mother rolled over on top of her newborn in a bed.
• A 2-month-old boy died in January while being held by the father sleeping in a recliner.
• A 12-day-old boy died in June while being held by the father who fell asleep on a couch.
• A 5-month-old died in September due to being wrapped in a heavy blanket that blocked fresh air.
An infant's death will most likely initiate an investigation by law enforcement.
Sworen recalled an infant who died while sleeping with the mother. The mother ended up being criminally charged because the investigation found she consumed alcohol and snorted cocaine before the baby's death, Sworen said.
"It's an avoidable situation," Lisman said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not advocate parents sleeping with their newborns, while periodicals, such as Parenting magazine, have published stories suggesting sleeping with babies adds comfort to the newborn.