General Question

SergeantQueen's avatar

Are you in favor of mothers being charged in Co-sleeping deaths?

Asked by SergeantQueen (11751points) 3 weeks ago

***I AM NOT REFERRING to when the mother is drunk, passed out, or anything other than sober***

Co sleeping death is when the newborn/small child is essentially smothered by the mother when sleeping.

I am not referring to them being under the influence of anything because I feel like that’s an obvious yes, they should be charged.

If the mother is totally sober, and just happened to fall asleep on their child, should they be charged ?

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34 Answers

JLoon's avatar


It only adds to the pain, and does nothing to protect the public or deliver justice.

zenvelo's avatar

I don’t believe in “charging” people for accidents, especially from accidents that come from a desire to the best for a child,

jca2's avatar

No. She’s going to go through enough without a needless legal charge.

kneesox's avatar

Definitely not. The law has no business getting into where a mother nurses or cuddles her infant. Picture a mother nursing her baby, and when she’s done, they both doze off, and—wham! cops break the door down and arrest them both.

Brian1946's avatar

No, but mother smothering by a fascist hutt should be!

Pandora's avatar

No. Plenty of mothers sleep with their newborn because the child will breastfeed through the night. Also there is no proof that the mom rolled onto the baby or if the baby snuggled up too close. When my daughter was a newborn, I had to sleep with her because she would cry unless she felt I was nearby. I would put her dead center in the bed as I rested near the edge. I did not move but somehow she always managed to move right under me. After a few days of no sleep because I was afraid she would smother, I got a bassinet and put it next to me by the bed and I would put my hand inside. That seemed to be enough for her to sleep and for me to sleep as well. But I wasn’t breast feeding. That would’ve made things difficult if I had to keep getting her out every 2 hours and placing her back in.

JLeslie's avatar

Do you have a link regarding statistics of this happening? Years ago I remember reading that smothering almost never happens with women, it’s the baby sleeping with the fathers that there are more incidences.

No, the parent should not be charged. A brief questioning maybe, to make sure she didn’t actively kill the baby.

Smashley's avatar

I don’t think it’s criminal, though it is an avoidable tragedy. Parenting an infant is difficult and mind-melting. You spend months in a sleep-deprived haze of worry and overwork, half fearing that this is your life now and it will never change.

Smothering happens, probably more than we admit, but I just don’t think it’s socially useful to criminalize that kind of accident. Education has reduced suffocation, but they are still probably the leading cause of infant death. There might be suffocations that really do involve gross neglect, but when you fall asleep breastfeeding and smother a child because your mind and body just won’t work any more, you just can’t treat it criminally, even if the parent did dare to drink. Perhaps if the state provided in home aides to all new parents, these kinds of things could be avoided, but until then, it’s just the way it is.

canidmajor's avatar

I would be curious to see statistics on this regarding cases in lower income areas, (ability of new parents to have the baby not in bed with them, stuff like that) and the criteria that might be used to charge.

@Smashley is right, the level of sleep deprivation is unbelievable, and general fatigue is overwhelming at that time.

kra9's avatar

No, they shouldn’t be charged in case of accidental deaths. My mom’s younger sister went through this horrible experience where she accidentally smothered her daughter to death (40 years ago). Though she give birth to another child, that left a tragic permanent scar on her psyche and with age her mental condition also deteriorated, for, she was never able to forgive herself for the loss. It is practically impossible to have a “system” to oversee, monitor, or even train the mothers on this. Deeply saddening and traumatic experience. That itself is an untold level of punishment. Charging them will only be adding to the woes. Instead there should be some measures of “solace” that needs to be envisoned and implemented, if the State cares.

Forever_Free's avatar

in a word – HELLNO!

kritiper's avatar

Yes. Ignorance is no excuse.

Demosthenes's avatar

Well, in some states women are prosecuted for having a miscarriage. It’s the logical extension of strict abortion laws.

gorillapaws's avatar

No. Though I’d hate to see what eye-for-an-eye types would have in mind for the method of execution: “bring out the boobs of smothering!”

Zaku's avatar

No, as so many have said. I think the type of thinking that would say yes… it’s the sort of thinking that makes me in favor of cultural segregation (as long as women in whatever state promotes this sort of thing allows the women to leave).

product's avatar

Christ no.

Cupcake's avatar

“I am not referring to them being under the influence of anything because I feel like that’s an obvious yes, they should be charged.”

What? This is an obvious yes? Am I the only one who disagrees?

No, parents should generally not be charged with homicide when their children die. They should be offered lifelong counseling.

In the case of substance use, they should be offered dependency treatment AND grief counseling.

I have a family member whose toddler died in his sleep. Those parents will never be the same. A criminal investigation only makes it worse.

What a horrific experience. Why would we address it through the additionally traumatic criminal justice system?

Zaku's avatar

@Cupcake No, I agree with you, and expect many who said no do too.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cupcake I would have a big problem with an adult drunk when they are responsible for an infant. I don’t know if I would charge them, but it’s fairly serious in my mind. When I read up about this, it said statistically there are more smothering deaths when the parent is under the influence.

A friend of mine had her children taken way when she was DUI’d with her kids in the car. The courts made her go through rehab, she could not have visitation without another adult present for months. I’m not sure how the law sees a infant death like this when an adult is under the influence, that would be interesting to know.

What if a babysitter was drunk and your child died while under their care?

SergeantQueen's avatar

At that point, any sympathy for them being an addict goes out the window. You have a child. You need to take care of it properly or find someone who will. Don’t fuck around with drugs. No sympathy for the person responsible, you killed your child because your dumbass couldn’t get your shit together. Now you have to pay for it.

I believe 100% in rehab for drug users/alcoholics. I support not giving them jail time in exchange for them needing to do mandatory rehab. But when someone else’s life is put in danger or is taken away because the person used, that’s where I don’t care.

I have known a few drug addicts in my life, I lost a family member to drug use. My best friend used a LOT and tried getting me into it, I still talk to her but only because she is getting better. I cut her off for a while. It’s not an easy thing to see someone go through, and it doesn’t just affect the user.

It’s not just the mother that has to live with having killed her child. Other family members are involved, and other family members now have to deal with losing a grandkid, etc. What about the father/mother in this situation..?

SergeantQueen's avatar

I made the mistake of putting “Should the MOTHERS” be charged,” In reality it should be “Should the PERSON RESPONSIBLE” be charged. Fathers can do this too, really anybody can.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I slept with my newborns a couple of times. I was so worried I didn’t get a lick of sleep.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

No. I’ve always felt infants and toddlers SHOULD sleep with the parents. Or at least in a crib or baby bed in the same room. In the event anything happens during the night mom and dad are right there. We have a three old grand son who sleeps with us when he wants to. I never held much for infant nanny cams and all of that silly yuppie bull shit.

Cupcake's avatar

@JLeslie What if they were? Does their going to jail bring back my child? I am always in favor of treatment. Always. But I don’t see where putting suffering people in jail gets us. The trauma that those kids went through because of that decision is unimaginable. The cost. The loss of connection. I could go on and on. It was WRONG to take the kids away unless the parent was unwilling to get help.

@SergeantQueen Because your dumbass couldn’t get your shit together? WTF?

Sometimes babies die. Do you realize that? The cause of death can be very difficult to ascertain. It can be wrong. Do you realize that? People can do everything right and sill their children die. It is highly traumatic. Babies can die because parents smoke cigarettes. Is that their “dumbass” not getting their “shit together”? I’m not even talking about addicts. Occasional tobacco, marijuana, a glass a wine. Do you realize how UNCOMMON it is for a parent to not partake of any substance at all? What about overeating – have you ever passed out from overeating? HOW DOES JAIL HELP?????? It doesn’t. It doesn’t help at all. All you want is punishment. We are not on the same page.

Is the dead kid not enough? Do you not realize how upset someone would be that a baby in their care died? It’s a great motivator for change… capitalize on that.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cupcake Of course I realize an infant can die in a moment, in an accident, the parent turns away for a second, or falls asleep, or any number of mishaps that I would never suggest a prosecution nor would I think to blame the parent. I would only feel empathy for the parent.

My husband’s cousin’s two year old was run over by the woman who was the car pool driver from nursery school that day. She backed right over the child in the driveway of his own home with his mother standing right there unaware he was behind the car. No one blamed the driver or the mother. The driver was tortured for years, probably the rest of her life by her own mind, we all felt terrible for her. Even the mother tried to comfort the driver (a friend) for a while, but she had her own grief she had to deal with. If instead she had crashed on the way home because she was drunk, I think all of us would have held her culpable, and maybe the law also.

I have zero understanding of drinking alcohol when responsible for an infant. The infant is completely dependent. I don’t understand smoking weed, or anything like that. 4 ounces of wine with dinner is different, but enough to be drunk? Too drunk to drive? Just because it’s common doesn’t make it acceptable. I’m not sure how common it is. Maybe we should do a Q on that. Like I said, I’m not saying they should be prosecuted, I’m only saying it does change how I view the situation.

My girlfriend FINALLY got her shit together when they took her kids away. The court’s actions might have saved their lives, or someone else’s or maybe extended hers. She died at 51 from all that alcohol abuse. Liver and kidney failure. The children went to their dad’s when they were removed, they weren’t put in foster care or anything like that. They were ten at the time I think. My friend’s mom flew to town eventually so the kids could be back in her house. Luckily, she had that help.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cupcake Believe it or not I felt empathy for the famous story that became a movie about the mom who left her kid in the car and the baby basically heat stroked to death. The mom worked at a school and forgot the kid was in the car because her husband usually takes the baby to daycare or something like that. Most people were horrified anyone could leave a baby in the car, but I completely saw how it could happen. She was preoccupied and out of her routine. If she had been drunk or hi? My empathy disappears.

jca2's avatar

If the parent is drunk or high, and the child ends up deceased, it’s referred to as “neglect” and can be a child abuse charge as well as a legal charge. If the parent is not drunk or high, it may be referred to as an accident, depending on the circumstances.

Cupcake's avatar

@JLeslie Thank goodness your friend’s mom could keep the kids.

I have tremendous empathy for people who are addicts. Just because you are a parent does not make you perfect, does not take away desire to do things that are familiar and comfortable, does not mean that you have all the knowledge and education you need, does not mean you have all the resources you need. Holding parents to such a high standard without the support they need (which is a societal issue, not blaming you or anyone here) is a huge problem. And I’m not saying that you think parents should be perfect. I do research on mothers who use substances/have addictions. The prevailing thought that parents should not use substances is often misguided based on the narrative of the perfect and selfless parent. It’s not realistic.

Again, I was not referring to people who were high and their babies died. I was referring to one glass of wine, etc. My husband has sleep apnea. I was terrified that our babies would die in our bed and he would be charged with neglect because he is not as alert while sleeping with his cpap on. The number of things that can interfere with nighttime alertness is vast and parents do not have adequate education because they are just told to not sleep with their children. That is why I do not support that stance. I think it should be layered. Tier 1 – do not sleep with you kid under the following circumstances. Tier 2 – here’s how to safely sleep with your child if you are not in tier 1, etc.

SergeantQueen's avatar

@Cupcake “Do YoU nOt ReAlIzE tHaT” Yeah of course I do, still said what I said.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cupcake Her kids were returned to her full custody after several months. It was not the first time she quit drinking so that probably helped. Not many people quit the first time and it sticks.

She had another bad incident before that DUI, I don’t remember it exactly now. She got out of legal ramifications with connections. I think she had an accident and they didn’t do the breathalyzer? I don’t remember. She needed some sort of big punishment to help straighten out. Defending her is a mistake as much as you want to be empathetic.

I was with her once when she had started drinking again after quitting. She drank like a fish, vomited about 7 times all over our hotel room. She was out of control.

I love her. She was my friend since 5th grade and we were always in touch. She was very smart, a scientist, beautiful in every way, and a wonderful mother when she was sober. Her death still is shocking to me and makes me very sad. I miss her. Her girls were in college when she died.

JLeslie's avatar

I created the Q asking jellies if they would drink while caring for an infant. Here it is:

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