But while breastfeeding and pediatric health organizations such as the March of Dimes, La Leche League International, and the World Health Organization have guidelines warning mothers about the dangers of co-sleeping, none of these guidelines specifically address concerns over falling asleep while nursing.
According to Lawrence, there are no guidelines on falling asleep while breastfeeding because it is such a common practice. But a quick survey of online early infancy discussion forums reveals that many mothers worry they may harm their infant when they accidentally fall asleep while nursing.
Part of the issue, says Dr. Miriam Labbock, director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, is that "we give only over-simplistic messages" about sleeping with your infant, advising against it altogether despite the fact that in some situations, such as onboard a flight, it can be unavoidable.
"There has been so much media about the risks of co-sleeping...but no one is covering how to sleep safely when you are not in those situations," she says, "[so] moms have to make due when reality and personal decisions are in conflict with the single recommendation...and sometimes, the choices are not well informed."
On the United Airlines case, unless autopsy reports can confirm the cause of death, Tuesday's tragedy will be officially considered "unexplained" London police told the U.K. press.
But given that the mother was breastfeeding at the time of death, experts still worry that this tragic, isolated incident will have the added tragedy of discouraging mothers from breastfeeding.
"We don't want to offer mothers disincentive to breastfeed or worries that are unusual [because of] this is one, unusual, tragic, case," says Kay, because "overall the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any of the disadvantages."
"It's very distressing," Lawrence adds, "because no matter what we say, this [incident] is going to discourage [some] women from breastfeeding."