3 1/2 month old baby dies while co-sleeping on couch

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office is investigating a new co-sleeping death.

Three-and-a-half month old Zechariah Brown died while co-sleeping with his mother on a couch at a home on Milwaukee's south side.

The medical examiner's report says the child had been in the care of siblings, but at some time from Saturday night into Sunday, the victim's nine-year-old sibling came into the living room and placed the baby with the mother on the couch. The mother was not aware the child had been dropped off. When she woke up just before 3 a.m. Sunday, she found the child not breathing.

Emergency responders who were first dispatched to the home tried to resuscitate the child but could not because of obvious post-mortem changes.

There were no obvious signs of trauma on the child.

According to officials at the Milwaukee County Health Department, there have been at least five co-sleeping deaths in 2012.  There were at least 15 all of last year, meaning the city during this January and February is already on pace to double the number of co-sleeping deaths from 2011.

"We have seen more sleep-related deaths than we did last year at this time, so we are very concerned about that," Anna Benton with the Health Department said after Sunday's latest incident. "I think what we need to do is just continue to get the word out and to educate people about safe sleep and what that looks like."

Last week, after three co-sleeping deaths in just 48-hours, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett called on churches, non-profits and health care providers to continue to work with the city in spreading the word about the dangers of co-sleeping.

Carol Klingbeil with Children's Hospital of Wisconsin said their medical center and others in the Milwaukee area have robust programs to teach parents and expecting parents.  Klingbeil said they tell people to make sure an infant is laid down alone in the crib with no blanket, toys, pillows or bumpers.  She said they also explain how to lay a child down on their back in a proper crib.

As for the most recent situation with the nine-year-old sibling not knowing how to lay down the child, Klingbeil said: "We always tell our families you need to share this information with your caregivers, your family."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has planned a third "Infant Mortality Summit" for June 6th, 2012 from noon to 5:00 p.m. at the Italian Community Center. CLICK HERE for more information and to register.

CLICK HERE for information and resources about safe sleeping from the City of Milwaukee Health Department's website.