David and Tiffany Karow, who whose infant daughter died in her sleep six years ago, are working to make sure other children don't face the same fate.
Seven-month-old Abigail Karow was put down for a nap at daycare. When caretakers went to check on her an hour later, they found her unconscious and unresponsive. She died two days later in hospital.
Abigail Karow before her death in 2010. (Photo: Change.org)
Initially, Abigail was diagnosed with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) until the police report concluded that Abigail was sleeping on her stomach, not on her back, as her parents had originally been told.
"Putting a baby on their stomach is not a crime," Tiffany told ABC7 News. "And it happens and she should have been able to breathe on that mattress."
The family recently won a an $8 million lawsuit against Evenflo Inc. — the manufacturer of the infant playyard, mattress and pad Abby was sleeping on when she died — after a jury found she had suffocated on the mattress pad.
Evenflo Inc. stands behind their product. Following the lawsuit verdict, the company released a statement saying,"We remain in agreement with all of the treating medical providers who concluded that Abby’s death was the result of SIDS — Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Evenflo stands behind the design of its playyard mattress pad and remains confident it was not the cause of her tragic death. We are extremely disappointed with the verdict of the jury and are considering all options, including an appeal."
Currently there is no law to regulate a mattress' breathability in the U.S. Following the verdict, the Karows started a petition on Change.org to make surface breathability a mandatory requirement in mattress pads for babies. At the time of this post's publish, they had more than 120,000 signatures, 28,000 away from their goal. The couple plans to send the petition to the CPSC and governors and senators in California.
Current recommendations say babies should be put to sleep on their backs, not front as pictured, to reduce the risk of sudden death. (Photo: Gettystock)
"Requiring that mattress pads allow a baby's breath to pass through the surface of the mattress would be a fitting and important tribute to beautiful Abby," the Karows' attorney, Joseph Carcione, said.
Increasing awareness about SIDS is also part of the Karows' campaign. "One thing very clear to us from the experts who spoke in our trial AND our personal experience is that far too often, 'SIDS' is ruled the diagnosis when suffocation by an avoidable hazard is the REAL problem," they wrote on Change.org.
'No better than a plastic bag'
Carcione conducted a series of tests on the mattress Abigail was sleeping on, an Evenflo Playyard mattress pad, and 30 other infant mattresses, to ascertain their breathability. The tests concluded that Abigail's mattress had "more in common with a plastic bag than a safe sleeping surface," and the other brands' results weren't any better.
Baby crib bumpers can also pose a danger. Last November, CTV News cited a study that posited about 32 of the 48 infant deaths reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) between 1985 to 2012 could have been prevented if baby crib bumpers weren't placed in the crib.
"You buy stuff at the store because it’s at the store, and it’s made for babies, and we think it’s safe, and you don’t think that putting a baby down on its stomach or on its back or on its side is going to kill your kid. And it did," Tiffany said.
SIDS diagnoses fall out of favour
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,500 infants in the U.S. die unexpectedly. Most die while sleeping.
"To complicate matters, people who investigate SUIDs (Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths) may report cause of death in different ways and may not include enough information about the circumstances of the event from the death scene," the site reads. This is what the Karows suspect occurred with Abigail's death.
The National Post reported earlier this year that SIDS diagnoses have fallen out of favour among doctors, and Ontario has not reported a SIDS death in two years, a shift that has caused further anguish to some grieving parents who have lost their babies.
"I have literally 200 letters from parents who have had that explanation, saying how it’s ruined their lives, thinking basically 'I killed my kid,'" Dr. Abraham Bergman, a Seattle-based pediatrician told the National Post.
HuffPost Canada Parents has reached out to Evenflo Inc. for comment and will update this story as needed.ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Every parent knows this letter. Fears it! It's the H. Some may say it stands for "horrible" but don't listen to them, they're just whitewashing it. It stands for Hell. And it's the kind of night you're both going to have. This was one of the first "baby in bed" sleep positions we noted down before we even launched HowToBeADad.com. When we were initially spit-balling ideas back and forth for the series, all Charlie had to say was "the H" and I was immediately laughing humorlessly with bitter familiarity. No explanation necessary. Since then, we've had a surprising number of people comment or email in, suggesting Charlie and I do this specific position (that didn't sound right). Never mind. So! All this firmed it up in our minds, that the H position seems to be ingrained into parents. Into our lower backs and stomachs at least, but maybe even at a cellular level, as deeply and mysteriously as sea turtles that know how to paddle their way back to their birthplace through about a bazillion gallons of saltwater and oil company accidents. Parents just never forget the H. Maybe it's because sometimes they've had several hours a night to think about it... with their eyes wide open... for a year or more...
When the cold weather hits us parents -- b-r-r-r-r-r! -- what better way to stay warm in the chill of night than, uhhhhh... to wrap your head and neck in the warmth and comfort of... your baby? Yeah, no one's buying it, we know. But, hey, it happens. Whether we want it to or not. Maybe your sleeping baby wraps you in a boa constrictor of cuddliness like The Neck Scarf, or goes lower when latching onto you, possibly as low as some kind of leg warmer of love. When it happens you tend to wake up and start imagining a referee counting the seconds you've been pinned by your little snoozing wrestler. Sometimes you stay asleep when your baby flops on top of you. In this case, it's likely you'll wake up from something like a tiny finger being jammed to the brain up your nostril, a toe finding a home in your belly button or the tickle of sweat dripping off the super-heated part of your body that's been given a toasty slumber-hug for the past hour or so. Joy. Stay warm and well rested, folks! If that's even possible.
Romping around in the snow can be a blast. Especially if you're small, clumsy and full of seemingly inexhaustible atomic energy, like a kid or baby. There are so many fun things to do and so few ways to get seriously hurt doing them! And it seems like snow angels were invented for babies in particular, on account of their limited mobility and superb laying skills. Heck! I bet you a baby invented them in the first place. They're cleverer than they will ever let on. No, seriously. Watch out. Anyways, with snow angels, you're really down in it, getting frosted or soaked. But babies have even thought of a way around this one as well. Why not play in the snow... in non-snow! The soft, poofy drifts of snow-like bedding can serve as a great way to have all the fun without risking getting a Slurpy in the diaper. And, here's the best part, they can do it while they are sleeping! Right there between mom and dad. Fun for the whole family. All - night - long!
It can be a little startling... You're sleeping (at last) and you wake up for some reason. Even if your baby has the most beautiful eyes, when you wake up all groggy and see those eyes, wide open and inches from your face, drilling calmly into your soul? You might not say it, but maybe you think, "AH!!! Heh heh! Hey there, little one! Heh heh. Aren't you supposed to be asleep? Uhhhh. How long have you been there... uh, staring... at me?" Some sleeping situations can be scary, like finding that someone is awake when you thought they were asleep. C'mon. How many times has THAT bit been used in horror films? A scene showing a close-up of a sleeping or apparently unconscious face, and then suddenly -POW!!!- eyes pop open with some freakish, loud sound. Scary stuff. I'm not saying that co-sleeping is like a horror film, but I'm sure some parents would. It's got its good side though. When parents watch their kids from the door at bedtime, it's a Hallmark moment. You may even hear the comforted sighs from a crib or giggles from a bedspread. Very sweet. But being watched when you sleep has a line that can be crossed where it gets creepy. If you woke up with someone and they told you that they'd been watching you for hours and hours while you slept? Or all night long? Yeeeeeah, sweetness and romance just left the building. Just sayin'.
The nighttime abuse we take as parents is a testament to how much we love heading to bed with the baby on board. Co-sleeping is special or at least necessary for some, but a lot of people don't know that it can also occasionally be a good way to get a bloody nose or an impressive black eye. You don't need a kick to head to figure this one out, but it would help to illustrate the point. Because I get such a kick (pun intended) out of all the joke Chuck Norris expressions on the interwebs, I have to add that if the baby depicted in this Instructional Diagram were actually a baby version of Chuck Norris, instead of waking up abruptly, this roundhouse kick to the head would have put him to sleep forever. Ha ha! Okay sorry, I'm done. My wife and I have loved having our little one in bed with us. Despite all the punches and kicks and scratches we've received from our little sleep-fighting lad. Hmmmmm... That makes me think of something: remember, parents, sleep safely with your baby. I'm not just talking about your baby, I mean you as well! Maybe if you slept with a helmet that has a face-shield? It might not be as uncomfortable as you'd think! Maybe.
Coming back from the bathroom, you cautiously shuffle through the darkness on autopilot. As you come up to it, you almost just let yourself tip into the bed like a falling tree, but something you see through half-lidded eyes makes you freeze in place. Danger! You can feel the itch of it between your shoulder blades like... an itch between your shoulder blades. But I mean a really bad one. Like the kind you can't reach. And has you doing a backward hump of a telephone pole or stucco wall to get at it. Anyways, back to what I was saying... Danger! Maybe you'll tilt your head to one side to improve your sight of it as you try to make out shadows within darkness. "Whussat?" you may mumble in your sleep-drunk head. You see a darker shape that should not be there... It's a booby trap!!! Well, a baby trap at least. Okay it's just your baby. You're still screwed. No matter how long you stare at that tiny trespasser, pondering how you can possibly overcome this obstacle, you won't. Your chances of curing cancer by rubbing twigs together are better than your chances of moving that little one without setting him off. Sleep on the floor or couch, or treat it like a band-aid and just do it fast and be done with the suffering sooner.
Some people fall asleep during musicals or plays, but when there's this much off-Broadway going on, this is one play you'll find it hard to sleep through.
Life imitates art. But sometimes it imitates a video game and then art imitates that... Don't worry, you won't be tested on this. Anyways, sleeping with your little one can seem like a video game, Donkey Kong metaphorically throwing barrels down at you as you try to ascend the steel girders of a good night's sleep.
Every dad -- actually, every man -- knows this sleep position. With or without the baby in bed, whether they've experienced it personally or not. The Dog House. This one is basic to human beings and probably has been for all time. There are probably really uncomfortable slabs of rock in the floors of most caves around the world that cavemen have polished smooth with their asses, spending the night away from their upset cavewives and cavemammas. "No man is an island" the saying goes. Yeah, we can be super dumb, but we're smart enough to know that it's not a good idea to sleep next to an exploding volcano. So, sometimes the couch is the raft a man needs to circumnavigate the evening while the lava cools.