So LA County's Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect [ICAN] wanted some attention for their 2008 Child Death Review Report, and they got it. The front¢er recommendation--the only recommendation, in fact--is that "co-sleeping" is a "potentially lethal act."
Of 115 undetermined child deaths in LA County in 2006, 44, 38%, "were associated with co-sleeping. ICAN has previously made recommendations regarding the need for public awareness efforts to highlight the dangers of co-sleeping, yet co-sleeping deaths continue in alarming numbers."
Taking a closer look, 40 of the 44 deaths were <6mo [26 0-3mo, and 14 3-6mo]. 34 involved sleeping with one or two adults, and another 5 involved one adult and more than one kid. But beyond that, the data underlying this recommendation raises a great deal of questions, none of which seem to have been asked by the LA Times, which boiled the report down to, "Parents warned about sleeping with infants."
1) Does the term "co-sleeping" mean the same thing to yuppie hippie parents as it does to LA County coroners? Is it relevant or accurate to use the term of a conscious parenting strategy as a generic cause of death?
2) When the report says, "It should be noted that, anecdotally, many co-sleeping related deaths can be tied to parents who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol," and when one of the reports five specific action items is to train responding officers that they "should take steps to determine if a parent [in a 'baby not breathing call'] might have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol," and then no data about drug or alcohol involvement is released, does that mean that there is no systematic effort to determine the involvement of parental substance use/abuse in these cases?
3) Should a case where a high or drunk parent passes out and a kid suffocates be called "co-sleeping"? Or should it be classified alongside the 25 deaths of kids 0-6 months old "due to maternal substance abuse"? [Meth and coke each accounted for 12 deaths. Of those 25 deaths, only 7 kids made it to 6 months; the rest were classified as "fetal deaths."]
4) If there are several callouts for over-represented groups in the report, why does the 3x over-representation of African Americans in the deaths "associated with co-sleeping" [29.5% of deaths vs 9.8% of the child population] not warrant a mention?
5) Hey wait, there were only two suffocation deaths and no SIDS. Are the other 71 undetermined deaths attributed to SIDS, in which case, SIDS is by far the major cause of undetermined infant death [duh], or are all the SIDS deaths classified as "natural causes," and are thus screened out by the ICAN staff before they even begin their tally? Would anyone pay attention to a report that called for renewed vigilance against SIDS?
1) Not at all.
2) Nope, a huge blind spot.
3) Probably with the coke & meth.
4) No idea, is there a socio-economic or geographic slice of this data that's more relevant?
5) No idea, and probably not.
Parents warned about sleeping with infants [latimes via dt reader dt]
Get the 2008 Child Death Review Report (pdf) at the ICAN National Center For Child Fatality Review site [ican-ncfr.org]