Death of 5-Month-Old Shows Why Parents Should Take Crib Safety Seriously

The parents of a 5-month-old baby girl in New Zealand were shocked and heartbroken when she passed away suddenly after routinely going to sleep in her crib back in December 2010. And now over a year later, they are grieving even more after hearing that one simple mistake is what caused her death. And while what happened was definitely an accident, it is still incredibly hard to accept, especially because it could have easily been prevented.

Baby Akayelah Colleen Dejah Collis died from a heart attack after having a lack of blood supply to her brain -- all of which was caused by her being put to sleep with an adult pillow in her crib. Her father reports that he initially placed the pillow on her knees when he put her down to sleep, but it ultimately wound up covering her upper body. She was then either smothered and unable to breathe, or she wound up "re-breathing" carbon monoxide. How incredibly awful and sad is that?

And the fact that her father was the one who found her unresponsive in her crib just makes this story even more gut-wrenching. I can't even imagine how he must have felt when he realized his fatal mistake. And even though this happened all the way in New Zealand, this is something that can happen to any parent, regardless of where they live, and no matter how cautious they think they are being when it comes to crib safety.

Not having any excess blankets, pillows, or other items in the crib is something that is drilled into our brains pretty much as soon as we become pregnant, but how many of us can say that we follow it perfectly 100 percent of the time?

It can be so tempting to add more items to our baby's crib, either to fit with the decor of the nursery, or because we think the baby isn't comfortable enough simply lying on a mattress with no pillow to lay his head on or blanket to warm him up. Or how about the cute stuffed animals that are constantly given to our babies from family and friends? Plenty of us assume that it couldn't hurt to stick them in the crib because the likelihood of our babies being smothered by them are slim to none. But obviously, it can happen. Most of us just probably think that it will never happen to us.

I got into the habit of using sleep sacks from the time my son was a newborn instead of blankets, and I also refused to use the adorable crib bumper I got at Pottery Barn because I was afraid he'd roll up against it in the middle of the night and suffocate. I thought I had crib safety down to a science. But the first time my little guy got a really bad head cold, I did consider putting a pillow under his head to help prop him up more so that he could breathe a bit more easily. It seemed to make sense, since that always helped me when I was stuffed up. The worrier in me wound up winning though, and I decided against propping him up. And after hearing about what happened to this poor family, I'm so glad that I followed my gut and chose not to put that pillow in the crib.

Do you have anything in your baby's bed besides the mattress and sheet?