A mother is behind bars after her 3-month-old infant died of asphyxiation last month. Police investigated the mysterious circumstances surrounding the child’s death and alleged that the mother, Kayla Joy Mitchell committed involuntary manslaughter after co-sleeping with her child.
The tragedy could have been avoided as investigators found that the mother was repeatedly warned about the dangers of co-sleeping with her young child.
The incident was reported on April 4, just after 9 AM.
Concord Police in North Carolina responded to a 911 call about an unresponsive newborn, according to WJZY. Cabarrus County EMS and Concord Fire & Life Safety also responded to the call, but the child was ultimately pronounced dead.
Investigators with the Concord Police concluded the child had died of asphyxiation after a co-sleeping incident. Unfortunately, Mitchell had previously been warned about the dangers of such an action and was investigated by the Cabarrus County Department of Social Services (DSS) in relation to co-sleeping with her other children.
Despite repeated warnings, Mitchell continued to co-sleep with her child.
The 23-year-old mother continued the practice of co-sleeping with her children “despite the advice and repeated warnings from DSS” police said. Ignoring the warnings proved tragic and the Cabarrus County District Attorney’s office felt charges were warranted.
On April 30, Mitchell turned herself over to the police and was charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony child abuse. She is being held on a $150,000 bond.
The police release was shared on social media and elicited strong responses from members of the community.
“Look – my first impression is this is just wrong – but we do not know the whole story,” one person wrote. “She was being investigated by social services before this. My heart is so sad for this.”
“I don’t know this lady’s story but I used to serve on the York County Safe Kids Coalition board,” another added. “We were connected to the coroner’s office and talked often about the high number of infants that died from suffocation while sleeping in bed with a parent. It happens more [than] you would think.”
Others responded with messages concerned with the mother’s well-being.
“She will forever be in my prayers,” one woman wrote. “She doesn’t deserve jail time … She needs a hug and therapy.”
“I wish more information about this was revealed,” another person commented. “It isn’t uncommon for children to co-sleep.”
While the practice of co-sleeping is frowned upon, it’s not explicitly illegal.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against parents co-sleeping with their children.
“More than 3,500 babies in the U.S. die suddenly and unexpectedly every year while sleeping, often due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental deaths from suffocation or strangulation,” according to Academy’s website, HealthyChildren.org.
While many accidents occur in the crib, a large number of infant deaths happen as a result of co-sleeping with a parent or other family members.
To try and educate parents about the dangers and best practices for sleep, the Academy created ‘Safe Sleep’ guidelines.
Pediatricians warn against bed-sharing particularly for children 4 months of age and younger. It’s advised that parents share and sleep in the same room for the first year. A safe sleep space should be created in the room that’s easily accessible. This allows parents to feed and comfort their child when needed, but also a separate, safe space for the child to sleep.
A baby’s bed should be flat and firm and babies should be placed on their backs to sleep to allow them to breathe easily while they sleep.
Mitchell is one of many mothers who’ve also been charged with manslaughter after co-sleeping.
Just last year, Shante Plummer was charged with criminal homicide and endangering the welfare of children after her daughter died while she was co-sleeping with her.
This sort of tragedy is preventable and following the ‘Safe Sleep’ guidelines and advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics is a great way to inform yourself about what’s best for your child. Factors like exhaustion and postpartum depression almost certainly exacerbate the problem, but having a separate, safe space for your newborn to sleep is essential.