Infant's Tragic Death Highlights Danger of Breastfeeding in Bed

baby footprintsFor the most part, breastfeeding is one of the most natural, healthy gifts you can give your child. However, it can also be potentially deadly if you don't take precautions.

A story out of New Zealand tragically illustrates what all pregnant women and women of newborns need to know. It happened last year in Auckland, when a 2-day-old baby girl was found dead after a breastfeeding session in her mother's hospital bed.

According to the New Zealand Herald, the baby was found lifeless just hours after her mother last fed her. Nurses had brought the baby to the mother, who wasn't feeling well, in her bed around 1 a.m., and around 3:30 a.m., she called nurses to take her back to the bassinet. At that time the baby appeared fine, as she did when nurses reportedly checked on her at 5:30 a.m., but when the mother checked on her around 8:30 a.m., she clearly was not.


She says the baby's skin was darkened around her neck, and when she called for help, nurses found the baby listless and unresponsive. Nothing could be done to save her.

I don't know why the baby didn't show signs of injury right away, but the only explanation seems to be that the baby was injured during the breastfeeding session. The mother recently told the court that as she was breastfeeding she "had a listless sleep." The official cause of death declared: "possible accidental asphyxia during breast-feeding while lying in bed."

Tragic doesn't even begin to describe it.

Of course, it could have happened while a mother was bottle feeding, or just co-sleeping as well, and of course ALL women should take precautions. But there's something so soothing about breastfeeding that it seems women should be extra vigilant about making sure they're not too tired while they're doing it to prevent a similar tragedy and perhaps not do it in bed at all.

There's also the nurses' responsibility at question in the case currently in court. Should they have been checking on her more often? Should they have provided more warnings about the potential dangers of breastfeeding in bed? I don't know the answers, and none of them will bring this poor innocent baby back. Hopefully, however, at the very least, this tragedy will help bring more attention to this potential danger, and better help women and health care workers prevent it.

Do you/did you worry about falling asleep while feeding your baby?


Image via Katelyn Kenderdine/Flickr

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