Straight dope on rolling over onto babies in bed?

Recently, there was a news story about a mother who slept in a bed with her infant, and rolled over onto the infant, unfortunately killing it.

Authorities whom I have hitherto trusted, however, have told me that there is not a single recorded instance of a sober, healthy person rolling over onto an infant while sleeping in the same bed with it. And what I take to be my “common sense” has tended to think this plausible. I don’t roll over onto my wife while we’re in bed sleeping. I don’t roll off the bed either. I apparently have, even while asleep, some sense of boundaries. So why would this sense go away just because an infant is involved?

So was this a freak accident, then? Or is there reason to think the woman involved was ill or otherwise impaired? Or have I just been told wrong and reasoned incorrectly?


Do you happen to have a link to the news story? I’ve never heard of it happening to someone who wasn’t impaired - usually from alcohol. Truth be told, I’ve never actually seen a cite even for someone who was drunk, but I’m more likely to believe it’s happened without a cite than a perfectly normally functioning person doing the same.

As you say, you retain a sense of space and boundaries even when asleep. I slept a few times with my daughter (her father and I wanted to do a family bed, but she didn’t, so it didn’t happen often) and I always knew exactly where she was, to the point of getting horrid shoulder cramps because, even asleep, I wouldn’t move my arm into a more comfortable position once I had it around her like a fence.

Sources I’ve seen online so far back up the suggestions that rollover happens when the parent is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, a very heavy sleeper or sleeping on a couch. So – is the woman involved was absolutely sober, a moderate sleeper and in her own bed – I’d say it was a freak accident, yes.

Mom Smothers Baby Trying To Fend Off Rats

Thanks for the link. Has the autopsy been done? I’m wondering (probably because I’m such a Pollyanna) if it wasn’t simply SIDS and this poor woman is beating herself up and getting her other kids taken away for no fault of her own. How would you tell the difference between SIDS and smothering?

From this I’d say it’s certainly possible to squish a baby while sleeping, as awful as that sounds. Our hospital used to provide information on “safety for cosleeping” and we no longer provide that information (families are instead instructed to allow the baby to sleep only on products specifically designed for infant sleep.) In other words it might not be the cosleeping that is the problem, but that cosleeping, by it’s nature, occurs on surfaces (beds, couches, etc.) that are unsafe for babies. Regardless, it seems that babies are safer in cribs.

My heart goes out to this mom, though. What a horrible situation. I’d say it’s not her fault at all, leaving baby alone with the rats would be awful!

(If you can’t read the full article, I should note that it finds evidence of at least 7 infants who died from “entrapment by bedmate” vs suffocation or other cause of death.)

Within the last five years or so one of those government agencies, maybe the FDA, put out guidance advising parents not to sleep with their babies in the bed due to incidents of baby-smothering. One ought to be able to find some good links by searching this board and Googling. There was at least one very heated thread on this board about this exact topic. If memory serves, there was plenty of evidence of parents smothering and crushing babies while sleeping, and there was a great deal of ire from parents who sleep with babies who thought the government agency was way out of line.

Okay, it was the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission that put out the warning, and the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with them. Here’s an article that gives a nice rundown of the controversy.

Thank you for the link, bluethree. Less than 100 deaths per year still seems an awfully small number, especially when compared to the over 2000 babies a year still dying from SIDS (cite) , and I still can’t help but wonder if a baby found dead in the morning in a bed is blamed on the cosleeping, and in a crib is called SIDS. As your link notes, the connection between SIDS and cosleeping deaths is unknown, and it may even be that cosleeping *reduces *SIDS, as Dr. Sears believes. Certainly the rate of SIDS deaths has dropped precipitously over the last 15 years - usually attributed to the Back To Sleep campaign, but also co-inciding with an increase in cosleeping. Or at least, an increase in cosleeping information in mainstream parenting magazines and websites - when I had WhyKid in 1993, cosleeping was still what only those weirdos in California did with their babies.

They still don’t provide any breakdown of deaths from being rolled over on and squished or suffocated, just say that it’s a possibility, along with getting trapped between headboard and bead or smothered in loose pillows. I don’t argue the possibility, I just am still unconvinced that it’s a credible risk in nonsmoking, uninebriated parents.

Dr. Sears, in fact, interprets these same statistics and comes to a completely opposite conclusion:

He also points out:

And, last but not least:

Complete article here.

Obviously, parents must do what they think best, in consultation with their doctors. But infants just…die sometimes. It sucks, but it’s the way life works.

My mother told me she almost suffocated me just after I was born. The nurse brought me in for Mom to feed me, and she went back to sleep and rolled over on me. Fortunately the nurse was only gone for a second and prevented my death.

Of course she was exhausted from giving birth and may have been drugged, I don’t know.

I’m a very heavy sleeper and used to have a waterbed. When my cat was a kitten it slept in the bed with me and I rolled over on it. The crying kind of barely registered to me in my sleep state but just barely. My mom woke me up and I realized I was sleeping on the cat and rolled off him. I could see it happening to a baby under the right circumstances.

don’t know about the US, but in China it’s pretty common to have a small bassinet for the infant that is put on the parental bed.