Parents’ Intoxication Results In Baby’s Death, But Coroner Blames Co-Sleeping

Terri LaPoint - Author

Nov. 7 2016, Updated 4:45 a.m. ET

It is a sad case in which an agenda has led to co-sleeping being blamed for a baby’s tragic death, instead of the actual alleged culprit – “morbid intoxication.” It appears that the parents were entirely too drunk to be aware of their baby when they slept (passed out), but instead of condemning their drunkenness and marijuana use, the coroner has used their case to further his agenda of condemning co-sleeping. This has many co-sleeping parents upset.

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The Quad-City Times reports that Terri Lynn Wells, 30, and Anthony C. Schlieper Jr., 24, of Moline, Illinois, woke up on the morning of June 10 to find that their 4-month-old baby, Anterio, was not breathing. He was taken to the hospital but was not able to be revived. The Rock Island County Coroner Brian Gustafson stated to KWQC that the baby had been deceased for “a number of hours.” The couple also had “a strong odor of alcohol” on them, according to the Coroner.

After an autopsy of the baby and an investigation, Gustafson has issued his ruling that the cause of death was “unexpected death in infancy with a history of co-sleeping.” He ruled the manner of death a homicide “due to the nature of the parents believed to be morbidly intoxicated.”

The couple has now been arrested and charged with felony endangering the health or life of a child, a Class C felony charge with a penalty of up to five years in prison. They stand accused of becoming intoxicated before going to sleep in the same bed with their baby, then one of them rolled over onto him and suffocated him. Police say that alcohol and marijuana were involved.

Wells and Schlieper made their first court appearance Wednesday, and were released to go home to their other three children on their own recognizance. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 12. The judge warned them: “Make sure you stay clean, or they’ll throw you back in jail just for drinking alcohol.”

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From statements that Coroner Brian Gustafson has made with regards to this case, it is quite apparent that has an agenda of eliminating the ancient, world-wide practice of co-sleeping, at least in the county he resides in.

“He is against co-sleeping,” reports the Quad-City Times. According to KWQC, “Gustafson calls the habit of co-sleeping an epidemic nationally.” He says that it happens “4 or 5 times in Rock Island County alone.”

Is that “4 or 5 times” a week, a month, a year, a decade? That statement reveals nothing.

Gustafson is a member of the Illinois Child Death Review Team in Peoria. He tells the Times that, out of the cases he reviews every year, “about 70 percent of child deaths involve co-sleeping.” But nothing in his comments reveals what percentage of those deaths involving co-sleeping also involve alcohol or drug use, as in this case, or other factors. Instead, co-sleeping is blamed as the culprit.

Michelle Zipp of The Stir writes: “Co-sleeping didn’t kill this child. The reported detail that the parents were intoxicated is what led to the fatal mistake. We should not villainize co-sleepers. It’s like blaming a car seat for not keeping your child safe when you didn’t install or buckle the child in correctly.”

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Gustafson says that the “Rock Island County Health Department feverishly has tried to break the co-sleeping trend that’s been in the making for decades.”

Decades? Mommy blogger, attachment parenting and breastfeeding advocate, La Leche League leader, and mom of five, Amanda McConaghy, responds: “Seriously? Just decades? People co-slept in the Bible. I don’t think it will ever go out of style. Cribs have only existed in our culture the past hundred years or so. Other countries and cultures practice co-sleeping, too. The problem isn’t co-sleeping.”

The problem, as many are pointing out, is the “morbid intoxication” of the parents.

None of the studies that implicate co-sleeping in babies’ tragic deaths separate out the parents who have had too much to drink, are on drugs (both legal or illegal), or are far too exhausted to be sleeping with their babies. Co-sleeping gets blamed, instead of the drugs or alcohol.

None of the studies have looked at whether or not the deaths where co-sleeping was involved were soon after vaccinations. Though a cause and effect between vaccines and SIDS has not been firmly established, there is sufficient data to raise the question of possible connection in any SIDS death. Japan has made the connection, and it is reflected in their plummeting SIDS rate.

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According to Vaccine Risk Awareness: “Between the years of 1970 and 1974 in Japan, there were 37 infant deaths directly after vaccination. Because of this, a group of doctors decided to boycott vaccines and vaccination was stopped altogether for two months. After that two months, the vaccination starting age was lifted to 2 years old, meaning that no child recieved a vaccine until after their 2nd birthday. Japan jumped from 17th place in child mortality to the lowest child mortality in the world. SIDS had disappeared. In 1988 the vaccination age was lowered to 3 months old, and the SIDS rate rose again.”

Toxic gases produced by chemicals in both adult and crib mattresses have been implicated in SIDS. When Dr. James Sprott of New Zealand introduced this explanation, he began recommending a mattress-wrapping protocol through which the gases would be released under the mattress instead of above, where baby breathes them. Where his protocol has been followed, he reports that there have been zero SIDS deaths.

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A source tells The Inquisitr that she was involved with a “child fatality task force” in her state. The state recognized that most deaths involving co-sleeping were not actually caused by co-sleeping, but by drugs, alcohol, or by leaving the baby on the bed where the baby became entrapped. She also stated that many of the panel participants secretly confided that they co-sleep themselves, but are required to instruct mothers not to, for the sake of liability issues.

Smoking around baby or the baby being overheated can also be factors that can affect baby’s safety, as reported by The Inquisitr. In fact, one study found that babies exposed to secondhand smoke are twice as likely to die of SIDS, whether or not co-sleeping is involved. The CDC reports that death from SIDS is three to four times more likely in babies whose mothers smoked both while they were in the womb and after they were born.

The reality is that co-sleeping is practiced by almost half of the parents of babies in the United States. Co-sleeping is practiced in most human cultures, and has been practiced throughout almost all of human history. It works for millions of families. Many mothers love the benefits. Full Circle Women’s Health writes:

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“Did you know that your baby has neurologically-based responses to maternal smells, movements, and touch? Together, these sensations reduce your baby’s likelihood to cry at night, while also positively regulating their breathing, body temperature, absorption of calories, stress hormone levels, and even their immune system! Much more than just a sweet snuggle time, co-sleeping promotes positive clinical changes in your little one. In other words, a happy baby is a healthy baby.”

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McConaghy lists many of the common recommendations for co-sleeping safely on her blog, Country Mama Blog. They include things like making sure there are no gaps that baby can fall into, and not sleeping in the same bed with anyone “who is too exhausted or sick to arouse to normal consciousness quickly,” or who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Parents who are able to rouse easily and those who breastfeed tend to sleep with a greater awareness of the baby and his sleep cycles.

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A British Columbian review of all the SIDS death in the region looked at co-sleeping. What the data showed was that co-sleeping in and of itself was not a cause for any of the infant deaths. They found that the deaths involving co-sleeping also involved drugs or alcohol, smoking, or had someone else in the bed besides a parent.

Parents who co-sleep safely are offended that they are lumped in with people like Wells and Schleiper. It is unjust that co-sleeping by responsible, loving parents is vilified while the real culprit in this case, alcohol and drug use, is practically ignored by the Coroner. In this case, the actual cause behind the baby’s death is fairly easy to see. What about cases where the cause is not so clear? If the Coroner or investigators truly believe that co-sleeping is to blame, will innocent parents go to jail if a baby’s death is from another cause, a cause that they aren’t looking for, because they have already decided to blame co-sleeping? With an agenda like Coroner Gustafson, it’s only a matter of time before that happens.

[images via paperblog, KWQC, WHO-Here, Giotto di Bondone, Dark Politricks, and giggle]


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