Exhausted mum accidentally smothers her newborn baby while nursing in bed

Exhausted mum accidentally smothers her newborn baby while nursing in bed

Know how you can breastfeed in bed safely.

The death of a baby suffocated by mother while breastfeeding has pushed one assistant coroner to question advice given by midwives at Royal Bolton Hospital in the UK. 

After a long and exhausting labour, new mum Ann Bradley was having problems breastfeeding her newborn son Louie Francis. After seeing her struggle, midwives told her that she could actually breastfeed her newborn while in bed.

The midwife proceeded to teach Ann the feeding technique of lying on her side. Before leaving, she also explained bed safety awareness and why bed sharing is discouraged so that Ann would be aware of the dangers.

Sadly, when Ann woke up the next morning, she found her son ashen and lifeless.

Here at theAsianparent, we are extremely sorry for Ann’s loss. We know just how exhausting labour and birth are, and that accidents like this can happen… and it’s nobody’s fault. 

Baby Suffocated by Mother – An incident that Could Have Been Prevented

baby suffocated by mother

While people may be quick to judge and point fingers, saying “Baby suffocated by mother!”, assistant coroner John Pollard chose to react otherwise.

After this tragic incident, he wrote to hospital authorities in the UK to raise concerns about the advice given by midwives. He disagrees that a new mum should be left alone in bed with her newborn, especially when she is exhausted from a long labour.

Louie’s death was something that could have been prevented. But sadly, he died due to several factors, including an undiagnosed bronchopneumonia and accidental obstruction of the airways.

Should You Breastfeed in Bed or Not?

baby suffocated by mother

The incident of the baby suffocated by mother could have been prevented.

For many mums, breastfeeding in bed has been a lifesaver when it is done correctly. It really helps to encourage milk production and maintain your supply when your baby is nearby. In addition, you get much-needed sleep and your baby will also sleep better and feel more secure.

But the most important part of breastfeeding your baby in bed or not is knowing that you need to make an informed decision.

If you have decided to breastfeed in bed, then make a conscious effort to do it correctly and as safe as possible.

Here are some of the criteria both you and your baby need to meet before you consider breastfeeding in bed:

For mums:

  • You need to be a non-smoker both now and even during pregnancy. 
  • Also, you should be sober (no drugs, alcohol or medications that would make you drowsy). Never breastfeed when you’re overly tired.
  • If you have very long hair, tie it up so that it does not become wrapped around your baby’s neck.
  • A parent who is a deep sleeper or is extremely obese should avoid breastfeeding while co-sleeping.
  • No other children should be present in the same bed.

For babies:

  • Babies need to be healthy (not sick, born prematurely or with a low birthweight).
  • Infants should not be swaddled when bed-sharing to reduce the risk of overheating. Swaddling a baby will also restrict them from using their arms and legs to alert an adult who is getting too close.
  • No sleeping clothes with strings or ties.

A Safe Sleep Area

baby suffocated by mother

Remember that wherever your baby sleeps an accidental injury is still possible, so always ensure a safe sleep area for your little one.

  • Always place your baby on his back to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Make sure your bed is firm. No waterbeds, beanbag, sheepskin or any other soft surface.
  • The bedding should be tight fitting to the mattress.
  • The mattress should be tight fitting to the headboard and footboard (also no crevices between the bed and wall).
  • No loose pillows, stuffed animals, or soft blankets near your baby’s face.
  • No sofas, recliners, or other surfaces where baby can slip and fall into a crevice or become wedged against the back of the chair/sofa/etc.

Mums, we bring you stories like this not to deter you from breastfeeding or co-sleeping. Instead, it’s so you are aware of potential risks, and so, can ensure safety for yourself and your baby while still continuing to nurse and co-sleep.

Whatever you choose to do, be sure to make a conscious effort to put safety first. Know the risks, minimise those risks and do it the right way.


Sources: KellyMom, La Leche League GBThe Sun

Feature and Lead Photo by ChristianeFe. photography from Pexels

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Written by

Rosanna Chio

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