Breast-feeding baby's death forces hospital changes: Inquest

By Abby Gillies

Photo / File
Photo / File

The death of a 2-day-old girl has prompted hospital staff to change their care of mothers breast-feeding in bed, a coroner's inquest has heard.

The newborn, whose name is suppressed, was discovered lifeless in her bassinet by her mother last February at an Auckland postnatal unit.

A post-mortem examination showed she died of "possible accidental asphyxia during breast-feeding while lying in bed".

Speaking through tears at an inquest at Auckland District Court today, the baby's mother, who also has name suppression, described the pain of losing her daughter.

Staff who were working at the Birthcare unit told the inquest of the impact of the baby's death on their approach to care.

The baby girl was born on January 31, 2011 at Auckland City Hospital and about four hours later she and her mother were transferred to Auckland Birthcare, inquest officer Sergeant Heather Ruddell told the court.

Doctors who checked the baby found no health concerns, she said.

On the night of February 1, the mother began to feel unwell with a temperature, chills and trembling.

A nurse gave her blankets and a wheatbag to help keep her warm and helped to put the baby on the mother's breast to feed just after 1am.

The mother was very conscientious and she did not believe she would fall asleep while feeding the baby, the nurse told the court.

The nurse checked on her and at 3.30am the mother called her back to the room to return the baby to her bassinet.

"She was pink and warm and I didn't notice anything that would cause me any concern," said the nurse, who has 40 years experience in postnatal care.

At 5.30am she carried out a routine check and used a torch to check the baby. Again, she noticed nothing of concern.

The mother told the court she had dozed between 1am and 3.30am "as I was breast-feeding and had had a listless sleep".

In the morning she took a shower and called her mother. When she went to pick up her baby at about 8.30am, she noticed her skin was darkened on her throat and called the nurse for help.

Staff found the baby mottled and lifeless and were unable to resuscitate her.

"It was obvious at that point that she was gone already and there was no chance to bring her back to life," sad the mother.

The loss of her daughter was "an open wound" and it was difficult to discuss it again, she said.

When asked by Coroner Katherine Greig whether Birthcare staff had talked to her about bed sharing with her baby, she said "not that I can remember".

She was unsure whether she had received any information about the risks associated with it.

However, she knew about positioning when feeding and making sure the baby could breather and swallow safely.

Since the death of the two-day-old girl the nurse had changed her practice.

- APNZ

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