'Co-Sleeping' Mom Charged After a 2nd Baby Dies

Erin Piche-Pitts had been warned on co-sleeping dangers for both babies, authorities say
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2016 8:51 AM CST

"It happened again" is what Erin Piche-Pitts told authorities when her second infant died of apparent suffocation, even though she'd been repeatedly warned about the dangers of co-sleeping, the New York Times reports. The son of the woman from Winter Haven, Fla., died in October, this time resulting in a felony aggravated manslaughter charge against her. Per the Orlando Sentinel, the story begins Dec. 4, 2009, not even two weeks after baby Angelina was born. Piche-Pitts brought the infant into bed to breastfeed and dozed off, waking to find the baby "cold and stiff to the touch," per an affidavit; Angelina's death was ruled accidental. On Oct. 6 of this year, her 18-day-old son, Javier, became unresponsive after she fell asleep in bed with him during a bottle feeding, the affidavit notes. His death was also ruled accidental, though his autopsy hasn't been finalized.

What leads these two incidents into negligence territory is that Piche-Pitts had been warned both during her pregnancies and after the births about co-sleeping dangers—via training and counseling, and from hospital staff and family—and especially so after Angelina died, per the Polk County Sheriff's Office (which also gave WTSP a rap sheet on Piche-Pitts that includes burglary, domestic violence, and possession of meth). The Times notes the case highlights the ongoing controversy on co-sleeping, with some (especially in non-Western parts of the world) insisting it can be a safe way to get infants back to sleep if practiced correctly, while others continue to note its dangers. "These are very, very difficult cases," a Polk County prosecutor says. "We are not charging parents with crimes because accidents happen. There has got to be something more to it." (The risks of co-sleeping are long documented.)

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