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25 child deaths linked to unsafe sleeping practices

Co-sleeping a leading contribute to suffocation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's one of the leading causes of child deaths in Duval County and it's already claimed the lives of several young children.

According to the Department of Children and Families, the controversial practice of co-sleeping, where a parent sleeps with a baby next to them, increases the likelihood of the child suffocating.

That practice has already killed six children this year alone and DCF says those numbers are on the rise.

Kelly Cook is the mother of two-month old Baby Harmon and with a very active infant, takes every precaution she can, including where he sleeps.

"My husband is a heavy sleeper and I would just be too paranoid about it. I sleep better knowing that he's not in the bed," Cook said

According to the DCF, that's a good idea since nearly 25 infants have died over the last six years as a result of unsafe sleeping practices, many dying from suffocation because they can't roll over or can't get mom and dad off them while co-sleeping.

"Sometimes, I don't know if its instincts, but you wake up and you're like are they around me? Where's the baby? And you're just panicked for a second," Cook said.

To avoid those deadly seconds, Cook and her husband placed an incline rocker near their bed instead of having the baby sleep with them.

"I can just reach back into it, grab him and then put him back," Cook said.

To help other parents fight this growing problem, the DCF has invited 40 representatives from a number of organizations, including local law enforcement, hospitals, nonprofits and social service agencies, to see how to combat the increasing number of child deaths.

The meeting will take place at 4 p.m. Tuesday at DCF's Jacksonville headquarters at 5920 Arlington Expressway.

Parents interested in learning more can head to the DCF's website at dcf.state.fl.us/childfatality/.