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Nearly seven-day-old infant who died was co-sleeping with mother

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee police and the Medical Examiner's Office are investigating the death of a nearly seven-day-old boy that occurred on the city's northwest side Monday, January 7th.

Initial reports indicate the infant was co-sleeping with his mother on a couch in an apartment located near 61st and Capitol. However, the Medical Examiner will not rule an official cause of death until an autopsy is complete.

Authorities say the infant, which was born on December 31st, 2012, was pronounced dead at 4:32 a.m.

“I held that baby when he was home from the hospital and he was very healthy at the time,” said Contina Morgan, a neighbor of the family.

Mary Mazul is a certified nurse midwife at Wheaton Franciscan St. Joseph’s Women’s Outpatient Center. She teaches pregnant women safe sleeping techniques for babies.

“At the end of that class, they actually get a pack and play for free, so they don’t have to find a safe place for their baby to sleep,” said Mazul.

Mazul says the phrase “co-sleeping death” is misleading because people assume a parent rolled on top of the baby. But she says it goes beyond that.

“It could have been the pillows, the blankets, the position the baby was in,” said Mazul. “My concern is, if we only talk about co-sleeping then women are going to get the idea that as long as I don’t roll over on the baby, then my bed is a safe place for the baby to sleep.”

Mazul says adult pillows are never a safe place for babies to sleep. The same goes for extra soft mattresses.

Debbie Kenzler teaches new mothers how to protect their babies while they sleep.

"We talk about ways that they should place their babies and how they should sleep, and all things that factor into the best place for a baby to sleep," Kenzler said.

An autopsy will be conducted Tuesday morning. The official cause of death is pending.

Meanwhile, the City of Milwaukee Health Department released a statement following news of this latest infant death: “The City of Milwaukee Health Department is deeply saddened to learn today of another infant death that may be related to unsafe sleep practices. While the investigation into the current death is ongoing, the MHD urges all parents and caregivers to practice safe sleep in their homes. Recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics state that the safest place for a baby to sleep is:

  • On his or her back
  • Alone in a crib with no pillows, bumper pads, stuffed animals, toys or blankets. (In these cold winter months, it is recommended that babies are dressed in a one-piece sleeper.)
  • In a home without exposure to secondhand smoke

The number of infants who die after being placed in an unsafe sleep environment continues to be a major concern for our city. These deaths are preventable. We will continue to work with community partners to spread a safe sleep message."

If you or someone you know needs a safe place for their baby to sleep, we urge you to contact the City of Milwaukee Health Department Cribs for Kids program at 414-286-8620.