Co-sleeping is sometimes unfairly named as the cause of a baby's death, but it's really negligence on the parent's part. In June, Terri Lynn Wells and Anthony C. Schlieper discovered their 4-month-old baby Anterio K. Schlieper had died while co-sleeping, but as the case was investigated, it was revealed that the parents were "morbidly intoxicated." It's a terrible tragedy, and while the parents didn't seem to intend to harm their child, they made the mistake of mixing drinking with co-sleeping. Co-sleeping didn't kill this child -- bad judgment, or rather impaired judgment, did.
Now another mother is in the news after her children died while co-sleeping. Children. Two babies. In two separate instances a year apart. Katherine Anne Jennings was co-sleeping with her 4-month-old baby James Robert Phillips in June 2012 when he suffocated as a result. In December of 2013, this same mother was co-sleeping with her second son, 8-month-old Luke Stephen Phillips, which resulted in his death.
Charlotte, North Carolina, police arrested Jennings, 33, on Monday and it marks the first time this district attorney's office filed these kind of charges against a parent who was co-sleeping when a baby died. Perhaps co-sleeping deaths need to be looked at more closely. If this mother got the help she needed after her first baby's death, maybe the second baby wouldn't have died in the same way.
Jennings' first son James' death was deemed an accident due to co-sleeping. But the charges were later changed to "undetermined." Then the following year, her second son Luke died after co-sleeping with her on the couch. That was also first recorded as an accident. But the cops looked into the case more and have arrested her. Jennings is looking at nearly five years jail time if convicted. She has a 4-year-old daughter as well, but that child lives with her father and was not in the home during these incidents.
This is a tragedy in every sense. And I want to believe that Jennings didn't mean to harm her babies. Maybe there was something going on with her that made co-sleeping dangerous. It has been reported that she has a history of alcohol abuse. She has four DUIs on her record. I hope she gets the help she needs. Brunswick County Assistant District Attorney Lee Bollinger said, "Similar cases nationwide usually involve parents who exhibit a dangerous pattern of behavior and disregard the safety of their children."
To solely blame co-sleeping and to say that it is unsafe, even after hearing this story, is wrong. There are safe ways to co-sleep, just like there are safe ways to cross the street. There are certain rules to follow to make sure safety comes first. Many parents co-sleep without incident and never put babies in harm's way. As parents, we always have to be alert, aware, and not do things to put our kids in danger. This mother shouldn't have been co-sleeping -- not with the first child or the second.
Do you think this mother should be charged with her children's deaths?
Image via Brunswick County Police