Genna Aaronson, a mom in Florida, was charged with culpable negligence after accidentally killing her one-month-old baby Clarke. Aaronson accidentally smothered her child while sleeping in the same bed with him, despite being told by a doctor that she should not be co-sleeping with him. Last week, Aaronson pled guilty.
The incident occurred in 2018. On January 5, 2018, Genna says she fell asleep while watching a movie on her phone. Clarke, whom she’d just fed, was already asleep in the bed.
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A few hours later, Genna awoke to the sound of her husband, Peter Aaronson, screaming. After falling asleep, Genna had apparently rolled over over Clark, accidentally smothering him in the bed.
According to the police report, Clarke was discovered face-down, not breathing. Peter apparently tried to perform CPR, but Clarke could not be revived.
The medical examiner lists Clarke’s official cause of death as “positional asphyxia,” or suffocation.
The Family Had Been Warned Not to Co-Sleep Just Four Days Before Clarke’s Death
Despite claiming to have co-slept successfully with Clarke for a month — Genna said she and Peter had been sleeping in shifts — it turns out this was not the family’s first issue with co-sleeping. Just four days before Clarke’s death, a doctor warned Genna not to co-sleep with Clarke after another incident brought them to the hospital.
Clarke was brought to the hospital after falling out of bed while co-sleeping with his father, Peter. There, doctors warned the family not to bed-share. Records also show that Peter tested positive for marijuana at the time and that Genna refused a drug test.
“Yet despite this,” a Florida Department of Children and Families report states, “his parents continued to allow him to co-sleep with them. Both parents were responsible for allowing him to sleep in an unsafe situation which ultimately caused his death.”
On February 19, 2019, Genna was arrested and charged with manslaughter. Police and prosecutors claimed that Genna put Clark in “circumstances which led directly to [his] death.”
The report also argued that the couple had shown “gross and flagrant disregard” for their son. It even noted that they chose to have Clarke sleep unsafely in their bed despite having a bassinet in the house.
In exchange for pleading guilty, Genna will receive no jail time and a more lenient sentence. The judge has given her a choice to either post a $10,000 bond and be released or be under house arrest.
Co-sleeping / bed-sharing is a hotly-debated topic within the parenting world. Many experts, including Jen Shapiro, a pediatric sleep consultant who founded Blissful Baby Services, says that there is, in fact, no safe way to co-sleep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns sleep in the same room as their parents for at least the first six months but note they should be in their own bassinet or crib, not their parents’ bed.
“Unfortunately, I feel like it’s an avoidable tragic event,” Shapiro told WPTV. “I think it’s really great when we have bassinets in mommy and daddy’s room where you literally don’t have to get out of bed anymore, you just slide the bassinet over.'”
“There are products that are marketed to say it’s the safe way to co-sleep, but when we’re sleeping there is no way to keep that baby between the two parents without necessarily rolling over.”
Matt is a writer, editor, and content strategist currently based in Washington state. He has worked as a managing editor for the iconic I Can Has Cheezburger, Celebuzz (a SpinMedia site), and now Mamas Uncut. He also acted as the Social Media Director for CafeMom.