A Ky. mother’s warning: The deadly dangers of ‘co-sleeping’

Pediatricians do not recommend the practice, but some still do it either by choice or by accident.
Pediatricians do not recommend the practice, but some still do it either by choice or by accident.
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 4:52 PM EDT
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VERSAILLES, Ky. (WKYT) - In a single instant, it is often said, life can change forever. For Kayla Sorrell and Ross Burd, on May 13, 2021, it changed in three.

The first was at 8 a.m., when Burd dropped off young Raven to the babysitter, a trusted woman who shared a special bond with Raven. It was a normal day.

The next was at 10:24 a.m., when Sorrell got the earth-shattering phone call that Raven was not breathing. “I’ll never forget the words she said to me,” Sorrell said of her conversation with the babysitter. “‘Kayla, I did the same that I did with my kids.’”

The final one was at 11:05 a.m., when, CPR having failed to revive their precious daughter, Raven Elizabeth Cole Burd was pronounced dead.

“She was my shining light,” Burd said. “She was the light in my darkness. She really had almost an angelic presence to me.”

Raven, just nine months old, died from positional asphyxia, Sorrell says, when the babysitter trying to get Raven to nap accidentally fell asleep herself in a recliner while holding her.

More than a year later, this family - understandably - is still grieving. Burd describes it as a “dark cloud.” Sorrell says she has had days where it overwhelms her to the point she cannot get out of bed.

And it has weighed heavily on Raven’s older brothers, Jared, 14, and Jaxen, 8, who were at school when it happened and unable to say goodbye to their sister, who they loved to play with and rock.

“It’s a tragedy no one wants to go through,” Sorrell said. “It’s very hard on all of us.”

But they hope to use their pain to prevent other tragedies, knowing that what is referred to as “co-sleeping” is a common practice - and a fairly common cause of sudden unexpected infant deaths, according to health experts.


“It’s just such a tragedy when we lose a child, whether it’s a total accident or some sort of preventable accident,” said Dr. Katrina Hood of Lexington’s Pediatric & Adolescent Associates, P.S.C.

Pediatricians do not recommend co-sleeping, whether it is bed-sharing, sleeping while holding a sleeping baby or whatever other form it may take, because of its potential dangers. Accidental suffocation or strangulation while sleeping made up 27% of all sudden unexpected infant deaths in 2020, according to CDC statistics.

Advocates highlight the ABCs of safe sleep: A baby should sleep alone on their back and in a crib.

Dr. Hood says it is important to be intentional about it, because tragedy can take only a few moments.

“When you’re getting ready to have a baby or you have a baby in your home,” Dr. Hood said, “I think you just make the declaration that we don’t want caregivers, we don’t want dads, we don’t want moms, we don’t want any other individuals sitting on a couch and saying, ‘I’m just going to doze off for a minute,’ and they’re comfortable, because on a couch or any place - in a bed - things can happen.”

And, accident though it was, what was only a 20-minute nap sadly turned into a lifetime without the baby who brought her parents so much joy.

Raven, they said, was a happy baby. She was not fussy. They did not have sleepless nights. She loved baths. She loved to smile.

“We took all kinds of pictures and videos,” Burd said, “but in the end, we only have nine months’ worth, and that will never be enough.

“I get jealous of some of my friends and their kids that are around the same age, because I didn’t get to see my daughter grow up to be that age,” Burd said. “That’s terrible. But at the same time, it’s human nature. I can’t help it.”

For them, the hardest part is moving on without her, knowing that Raven will forever be their angel infant. Their only hope is that her story could save someone else’s life.

“Although she has passed, I can still keep her alive by sharing her story and bringing awareness to the dangers of co-sleeping,” Sorrell said. “Because if they see her smiling face and know that is what cost her her life - no matter the situation, it was a complete accident, but it still cost a life.”

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. In honor of World Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, advocates ask people to light a candle for all babies gone too soon. They say to keep the candle lit for at least one hour, to help keep a continuous “wave of light” across all time zones all around the world.