Prosecutor Pushing Prison For Co-Sleeping Parents

A prosecutor in Indiana thinks the worldwide-but-controversial practice of sleeping with your baby in the bed is a prosecutable offense, and he’s vowed to bring co-sleeping moms and dads up on charges if their babies die on his watch.

Delaware County prosecutor Jeffery Arnold said he’s seen nine infant deaths in the past year, many the result of co-sleeping. “I’m not going to overlook that anymore as stupidity,” he said, joining a growing number of prosecutors across the country who are now prosecuting parents for sharing their beds with their kids. Two couples—one in Utah and a second in Texas—are on trial right now in their children’s deaths, believed to be a result of co-sleeping.

Of course, medical and consumer groups like the Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have made a mission out of warning parents of all the bad things that can happen when we co-sleep with our babies: they can suffocate, get trapped by the bed frame, headboard, footboard or wall, fall from the bed, get smothered by our bodies, die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome—the list goes on. And the Milwaukee Health Department weighed in earlier this year with a controversial print ad campaign that showed babies cuddling up to giant butcher knives. The tagline? “YOUR BABY SLEEPING WITH YOU CAN BE JUST AS DANGEROUS.”

It behooves us as parents to take all of these things into account as we decide how to best put our children to sleep at night, but really? We’re sending parents to prison over a centuries-old practice mothers around the world continue, even today? Over what, if alcohol or drugs aren’t involved, could be simply a horribly tragic accident? Are there actual laws on the books barring mothers from sleeping with their kids? Because if there are, I broke them for at least the first two years of each of my daughters lives. Almost every night for the first six months (save for the unfortunate time we tried to let Mari cry it out) of their lives, I stretched out a clean cloth diaper on the bed between Nick and I, laid my babies on their backs on our mattress and cuddled them to sleep, waking up to nurse them (read: roll over and pop a boob in their mouths) when they were hungry, rub their backs when they cried and nuzzle their chubby cheeks and smell their sweet baby breath when I wanted to thank God for the miracle of their little lives. Later, they found their way to the crib, but if my daughters wanted to sleep in our beds, to this day, they are allowed in—with open arms.

Thank God nothing ever happened to my ladies while they slept with Nick and I. And there are ways a parent can safely share sleep space with their children while greatly reducing the risks that they’ll get hurt. But I just can’t see how the law can slap a “reckless endangerment” charge on mothers for how they choose to put their babies to sleep. I’d hate for co-sleeping parents in Indiana to find out the hard way whether this prosecutor means business.


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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. I personally think it is outrageous to prosecute parents for what the writer said is “a centuries old practice.” Isn’t death of your child punishment enough. I think someone should look to see if there are checks from Babies R Us, Chicco, Baby Trend, etc and other crib manufacturers in that prosecutor’s pockets. Are there risks to sleeping with an infant? Absolutely. But diligent parents take precautions. Plus there are more crib related deaths than co-sleeping deaths. Man, I’m telling you the baby products industry is a racket. These cribs cost $300 and up, plus there are hundreds of crib recalls every year meaning if you have more than one child you’re more than likely going to need to buy a new crib for each one. Check out: According to Dr. Sears, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) are behind these Stop Cosleeping campaigns. BTW JPMA is an association of crib manufacturers. Also Sears website claims that research from Mothering Magazine reports that infants who sleep in a crib are twice as likely to suffer a sleep related fatality (including SIDS) than infants who sleep in bed with their parents.

  2. I had to chuckle of the nurse while sleeping cuz I did the exact same thing! I love cuddling with my little ones, it’s a parent badge of honor, especially if you had IVF, complications, or a just a mushy loving parent.

    My son is three and I still enjoy the occasional 3am sneak in our bed attack and I play with his toes while he cuddles my face.

    Ah, the joys of motherhood…the nerve to try to prosecute us for it!

  3. That’s outrageous. I co-slept with both my little ones, and when this newest one makes his appearance in a few weeks, I’ll co-sleep with him too. I will say that I took a lot of precautions. We pushed the bed to the wall and had the baby sleep between me and the wall, as I don’t think daddies are as aware of the baby as mamas are. In the crack between the bed and wall, we stuffed really firm pillows so there was no chance of the baby rolling into the crack. I always slept with my lower arm out to prevent myself from rolling over on the baby.

    Co-sleeping is such a wonderful thing to do, and it can be done with minimal risks. Thanks to the PP who pointed out how crib manufacturers are behind much of the warnings.

  4. i still remember being a young mother, exhausted and afraid to go to sleep for fear something would happen to my newborn during his first week of life. i feared he would bunch the bedding underneath his nose and suffocate while in his crib so i would lay with him & stretch the sheets tight and lay on one end so it wouldn’t bunch [paranoid, i know]. terrified to rest. i’d watch him sleep and doze for maybe 20 minutes a night. that in itself was dangerous towards my health and while trying to care for the baby the following day, not being alert enough to tend the baby. i understand now that it’s dangerous to co-sleep now, but i was uneducated in so many ways. if the world would educate young parents more with parenting skills without prosecution; things would be far better. my son is 22 years old now.

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