Doctor warns parents about dangers of sleeping with infants

Dr. Jacob Snow, associate medical director of Pediatrix Medical Group, shows a safe way to put ...

Five infants have died this year at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center due to co-sleeping, a physician said Thursday.

“When we know that many of these could be prevented by parents knowing how to safely put their kids to sleep, it makes it even harder for our staff here and certainly harder when those parents realize this could have been prevented,” said Dr. Jacob Snow, a pediatric emergency room physician.

Snow urged parents to follow the ABCs of sleeping for children under the age of 1. A stands for “alone,” meaning children should sleep by themselves and not with another person. B stands for “back,” because babies should sleep on their backs to avoid suffocation. And C stands for “crib.” Snow said babies should always sleep in their cribs, which should be empty except for a fitted sheet.

“It might take some sleepless nights,” said Snow, a father of five. “It might take some difficult nights, but having parents be the patient leaders of that parent-infant relationship, and even having those infants spend some time crying to figure out how to get themselves settled is a much better scenario than having the entire family in here crying after a tragedy has occurred.”

The Clark County coroner’s office has recorded at least 29 child deaths this year. Although the coroner has not ruled that any were the cause of co-sleeping deaths, the cause of death remained unknown Thursday for eight of those children.

Nationally, 3,500 babies die from co-sleeping annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Snow said Sunrise usually reports a dozen co-sleeping deaths annually.

Jeanne Marsala turned around to grab a new diaper when her son, who was 3 weeks old at the time, rolled off the bed.

“I’ll never forget that experience of me hearing him wail with that breath that he took after he fell,” Marsala said Thursday. “Thank goodness there was no serious injury.”

Marsala is now the director of Clark County Safe Kids and a nurse at Sunrise. She urged parents to establish good habits, like setting babies in their cribs instead of rocking them to sleep, and making sure moms are wide awake when breastfeeding.

“They don’t know any different,” Marsala said. “If we’re going to hold them and rock them to go to sleep every night, that’s what they’re going to require every night. But if from the very beginning we put them in their own safe place to sleep, their own crib, bassinet or play pen, that’s what they’re going to get used to.”

Marsala warned that cribs need to be firm so that when babies do learn to roll over, they don’t suffocate in a cushioned mattress, comforter or pillow.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.